Portland Trail Blazers Are Set Up for Major Success in the 2009 Offseason
When Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen told his general manager Kevin Pritchard to make the necessary moves to improve the team, I am convinced he did not mean to make minor adjustments.
As soon as the clock hit 12:00 a.m. eastern standard time on July 1, 2009, Kevin Pritchard made a call to Hedo Turkoglu's agent, Lon Babby. That call was the first one Babby received about his client.
Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan flew to Orlando last night to have dinner with Turkoglu. To return the favor, Turkoglu and Babby will fly to Portland today to tour the Rose Garden, the team's practice facilities, and to take a tour of the city Turkoglu likely could be playing in next season.
But will Pritchard stop if Turkoglu decides to play in Portland next season?
Before the NBA draft in late June, Pritchard outlined the Blazers' needs. They included a starting point guard, starting small forward, and a backup power forward.
By acquiring second-round draft pick Jeff Pendergraph of Arizona State University from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for disgruntled reserve point guard Sergio Rodriguez and second-round draft pick John Brockman of the University of Washington, it seems Kevin Pritchard has filled the Blazers' need at the backup power forward position.
If he is indeed able to sign Hedo Turkoglu, he will have filled the Blazers' need at the starting small forward position, as well.
But what about the hole at starting point guard? Steve Blake showed the NBA that he can be an acceptable starter, but not for a championship caliber squad.
Names such as Ramon Sessions, Andre Miller, Kirk Hinrich, Jason Kidd, Nate Robinson, Devin Harris and even Steve Nash have been listed as possible targets for the Blazers this offseason.
Of these names, the only ones that I see as possible Trail Blazers are Hinrich and Harris.
The Bucks have made it clear that they intend to keep Sessions in a Milwaukee uniform. They have cleared cap space by trading Richard Jefferson and allowing Charlie Villanueva to sign with the Detroit Pistons.
Unless Pritchard works out a major sign-and-trade deal, I do not see Sessions coming to Portland anytime soon.
Andre Miller could help the Blazers, but he would only be a quick fix, as he is in the twilight of his career. Besides, Jerryd Bayless, whom Kevin Pritchard knows will be his future starting point guard, is a good year or two away from being an effective starter.
Kidd would not be a good fit for the same reasons as Miller.
Although Robinson has extensive playing experience with Portland's go-to guy Brandon Roy, as the two played together at the University of Washington, Robinson is more of a scoring point guard. Although the Blazers do need a point guard who can create their own shot, they also need a point guard who can create shots for others.
Unless Portland offers Brandon Roy to the Suns, they will not nab Steve Nash. The whole point of Phoenix trying to trade Shaq and Amar'e this offseason was so they could build their team around Nash, not trade him away.
So, that leaves the Blazers with two realistic options: Hinrich and Harris. Although Hinrich seems to be the more realistic of the two, I wouldn't be surprised to see a Harris trade go down.
Here's why—New Jersey needs help at the three.
They have eyes for Travis Outlaw. He's young, has an above average jumpshot, and can play pretty good defense when he puts his mind to it. There's a big reason why his name appeared in trade rumors this season about a possible Vince Carter move to Portland.
They also need help at the four now that they have traded starting power forward Ryan Anderson to Orlando as part of the Carter deal.
I would be very shocked if the Nets did not bite at an offer of, let's say, Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, and the draft rights to Jeff Pendergraph and Patrick Mills. It would give them the help they need at the three and four, an established starting point guard in Steve Blake, and would also help clear cap space for the summer of 2010, as both Pendergraph and Mills have no minimum contract options other than the league.
Plus, New Jersey could stash Mills in Europe and not have to pay him at all, since he was a second-round draft pick.
You may be wondering why Pendergraph would be included in this trade scenario. After all, he is slated to be LaMarcus Aldridge's backup.
The Blazers could do better than Pendergraph. Specifically, Portland could land either David Lee or Antonio McDyess in free agency.
Lee's biggest suitors were the Memphis Grizzlies, but they couldn't afford to pay what his agent asked for, so they traded for Zach Randolph.
This leaves only two teams that could give David Lee a contract over the mid-level exception: Oklahoma City and Portland.
Who do you think David Lee would rather play for? A young, inexperienced Oklahoma City team with a nice group of young players in Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Jeff Green?
Or would Lee rather play for a playoff team with a solid lineup of Kirk Hinrich/Devin Harris, Brandon Roy, Hedo Turkoglu, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden?
I know what you're thinking: David Lee wouldn't want to play backup to LaMarcus because of how many minutes LMA played last season.
Here's why that's not true—the only reason Aldridge played that many minutes per game was because he would be moved to center because Oden and Przybilla were either injured or in foul trouble.
Both big men will come back next season more disciplined, and thus will not foul as often, letting Aldridge rest more, which would allow Lee to play solid minutes.
Think about it. A starting lineup of Hinrich/Harris, Roy, Turkoglu, Aldridge, and Oden. Also, a bench unit of Bayless, Fernandez, Batum, Lee, and Przybilla.
I'm sorry Laker fans. If and when Portland lands this lineup, there is no way the Lakers will waltz to a No. 1 seed in the West. The Blazers will be on your tail all season long.
All in all, this free agency is shaping up to be a solid one for the Portland Trail Blazers, and whether the other teams in the West like it or not, they will have to respect this young, but mature team. Otherwise, they will be left in the dust.
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