Random Ravings: Analysing Possible Trail Blazers
If the headline above this article didn't scream Captain Obvious, I wanted to use this time to highlight some free-agents that are available this summer, and pitch in my thoughts about how effective, or ineffective, they would be playing for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2009-10.
The Blazers have somewhere between $7 and $8 million to offer this year, but Kevin Pritchard, the Blazers GM, has a reputation for making trades that likely will grow this year, if the scuttlebutt from every corner of the Portland sports scene is to be believed.
Knowing this, I'll list some players that Portland may not be able to afford, unless they get rid of a couple of their current players.
Pritchard has a history of going outside the box and taking gambles other GMs would shy away from, a trait he'll have to exercise to full effect if he's going to adequately fulfill owner Paul Allen's edict to improve the roster for next season. He's likely taking a look at all these players as I write this.
If you've been reading as much online print about both Turk and the Blazers during the past day as I have, you'll know Portland really, really wants this guy.
He can hit from anywhere on the court, he handles the ball very well for a guy who stands 6'10", he has a knack for passing that any team loaded with shooters will appreciate, and he has extensive postseason experience.
Most of all, however...Turkoglu's fairly consistent. He doesn't take many games off, like Travis Outlaw does. Outlaw is a player that can win you tonight's game and lose tomorrow's and next week's games because of his inconsistency in terms of his production.
Nate McMillan also asked him to switch positions to power forward at times, forcing Outlaw into a place where he was uncomfortable.
It can be argued that Outlaw and Turkoglu are similar players that can struggle at times with their jumpers. However, the things that separate Turk from Travis—and Martell Webster—is his ability to pass the ball, his newfound aptitude for driving to the hoop (something Nate has begged Outlaw to do consistently for years), and his bona-fide star power.
Brandon Roy won't be on all the time. He'll feel better on his off nights, however, if he knows he has Hedo Turkoglu on his team then he'll feel if Travis Outlaw stays...though Roy, who is great friends with Outlaw, would never admit it.
Another guy Pritchard is reportedly seeking, Miller is a 6'2" point guard that passes well and shoots poorly. He's also 33, practically geriatric when compared to 19-year-old Nicolas Batum, 21-year-old Greg Oden, and 21-year-old Jerryd Bayless, who would back up Miller if he joined the Blazers.
It's telling why Portland wants a new starter when you think about Miller and Steve Blake, who's 27. While Blake shoots the three better than Miller, Portland already has people that shoot much better than either of them, Rudy Fernandez and Webster (if he stays) being the preeminent examples.
Blake also lacked confidence when he had open looks, often passing up those looks. This led to Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, or Outlaw hoisting up shot-clock beaters that missed badly, wasting a possession that could have ended in a Steve Blake three-pointer.
Miller has the confidence, at least, to take an open look. Even if he misses it, at times it would be the best shot the team would get in a given possession, and Miller knows this. Blake and Sergio Rodriguez, who was traded before draft night, both had so much trouble figuring this out that McMillian would literally scream across the court, "SHOOT IT!" whenever they were open.
Personally, I think Jerryd Bayless is the future at point guard. I also think he would learn more about being a point guard watching Andre Miller than Steve Blake. Let Miller finish out his more productive seasons in Portland, while McMillian grooms Bayless.
Now calm down, Blazer fans. I only mention Ariza because the Lakers reportedly have decided to cut ties with Ariza so they can bring back Lamar Odom, and because he's very long, athletic, and has the makings of a good defender. He also can finish explosively at the basket.
However, three obstacles would get in the way of Ariza donning the Blazer black, white, and red. First, he's the guy that nearly decapitated Fernandez when the latter was trying to finish a fast-break during a game in Portland.
Fernandez had to leave the game on a stretcher, and while he would be okay—and actually played better after he almost broke his neck—Ariza's status of "Hated Laker" was forever etched in stone. The fans nearly booed the roof off the Rose Garden when he started the next game against the Blazers.
Secondly, as a key cog to the Lakers' title run last season, Ariza would command a sizable amount of money. It might not be too high for Portland, if they really want him, but the third obstacle will deter them.
It turns out that Portland already has a player that's not only similar to Ariza, but also younger. His name is Nicolas Batum, and as long as Batum has a roster spot on the Blazers, Ariza will not.
This possibility is intriguing. While Kidd is old at 36, he proved last year that he still has enough left to be a productive basketball player. He may not be as quick as he was, and he never shot the ball well, but his passing acumen is second maybe to Steve Nash, and that's a maybe.
Kidd is a certain Hall of Famer and one of the best point guards ever, and he is very battle-tested—he's been to the Finals multiple times. He would bring quite a bit to a youthful Blazer team still trying to figure out how to win the big games.
Unfortunately, he is 36. He would be very old for a basketball player when Roy, Aldridge, and Fernandez hit their primes, and he'll be retired when the younger Blazers reach their late-20s.
Even if they were pursuing Kidd, the Portland brass may have to forget about him anyway; there's word from Dallas that the Mavericks are preparing to offer him a three-year deal. If that's true, Kidd will certainly take it.
While Portland did pick up Jeff Pendergraph, who I like very much, Pritchard would be very wise to take out an insurance policy on the backup power forward position by taking this veteran warrior. If McDyess can indeed be persuaded to come to the Rose City, he'd keep a certain situation from happening again.
Blazer fans should know all about this, but in case you haven't followed the Blazers consistently, here's the lowdown: Last season, LaMarcus Aldridge started all the games for Portland at power forward (if I'm not mistaken; if I am, someone in the comments, or an editor, will have to enlighten me).
He's a physical specimen, always keeps himself in great shape. He'd still be breathing easy during the second quarter while Roy, Oden, Blake, and others would be wheezing their lungs out.
However, even Aldridge gets tired. Usually halfway through the second quarter, Nate McMillian would have to take him out. At first, he replaced Aldridge with Channing Frye.
This plan seemed good until Frye, for some reason, lost his shooting stroke. Since he was never much of a rebounder or defender, there was no reason for Frye to play once he couldn't produce offensively, so McMillian tried something else.
It was this lineup: a center (Oden or Joel Przybilla, usually was Oden), Outlaw at the four, Roy at the three, Fernandez, and a point guard, usually Sergio Rodriguez, at this time of game.
It provided great offensive returns, but McMillian still had trouble getting consistent defense and rebounding. He also had a new problem: if opposing coaches had a larger three that could score in bunches, they would put him in and exploit the 6'6" Roy on defense as well, either getting Portland's best player in foul trouble or getting easier cracks at the hoop.
And while Roy's a decent rebounder, he's not meant to have to bang against guys four or five inches taller than him trying to help the skinny Outlaw on the weakside boards.
Pendergraph, for all his assets, is not the sure thing the Blazers need. If Portland could sign Antonio McDyess, all these problems would vanish in an instant. Aldridge would get his rest, McMillian would get his boards and defense, and the Blazers would get better.
These are just a few examples I listed, but there are many options to pursue. While I would prefer it if the Blazers simply stood pat and let the guys they have now develop, Allen, Pritchard and McMillian are not thinking this way. I only hope that they continue to make the right additions, and get this team one step closer to that shiny golden trophy.
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