NBA Free Agency 2012: If Nicolas Batum Wants to Leave, Will Blazers Trade Him?

Wesley HodgesContributor IIIJuly 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers is defended by Nicolas Batum #88 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half at Staples Center on February 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

In a brief news release on Wednesday afternoon, reported that the Portland Trail Blazers are discussing a possible trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The trade rumor centers around Portland restricted free agent Nicolas Batum, who has been the primary free agent target for the T-Wolves this offseason. The Timberwolves would like to keep Portland from matching the offer that Batum will sign with them, so they are looking to get a deal done by conveying some parts back to the Blazers via sign and trade.

The same article mentioned above also reiterates what Blazers GM Neil Olshey has already stated, which is that the Blazers will match the offer if and when Minnesota makes it. That seems to be a smart move, given all the potential the young star still has.  

But would the Blazers consider trading Batum to avoid potential problems later?

It seems unlikely. One problem is that by sending their second best player to an up-and-coming division rival, the Blazers could very well end up locking themselves in the Northwest division basement for the next couple of seasons.

Another is the seeming lack of available players that are in Batum's class, with his versatility and blossoming skills on both ends of the court.

The trade rumor mentions that the Timberwolves would look to provide Portland with a couple of future first-rounders and a veteran small forward to take Batum's place on the roster. This sounds OK in theory, but if the Blazers really do want to build a team for the future, Batum is the guy to do it with.

If Minnesota were to have a nucleus of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams and Batum to build on, they could very quickly become the second best team in the division.

One thing that the T-Wolves management needs to realize is that, in this scenario, they don't have any leverage. Batum's agent can try to force a trade all he wants, but Batum is not Dwight Howard. Besides, the next guy who forces a trade to Minnesota will be the first.

If the Wolves want Batum so badly, they need to be willing to give up something of value, not just picks, to get him. How about Williams and a future first-rounder to Portland? Or Batum and Meyers Leonard to Minnesota for Love?

Crazy maybe, but at least with those names involved we could have a real discussion.

If he really wants to leave Portland, then Batum should avoid signing any offer sheet and just become an unrestricted free agent next summer. If, as I suspect, it's all about the money, then he should just sign the offer sheet and be happy earning his millions in Portland for the next four years.

The Blazers have a new GM and will have a new coach in place within the next few months. This team won't be the same as it was last year, and if Batum stays, he will find that Portland is as good a place as any to play in the NBA, and all this drama will be water under the bridge.