Best Potential Free-Agent Signings for Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers shocked the NBA with their 54 wins this past season, but entering the 2014 free-agent period, it's clear that players such as Greg Monroe, Channing Frye and Spencer Hawes would do wonders for these borderline contenders.
When it comes to Portland's current cap situation, The Oregonian's Joe Freeman breaks it down best:
A midlevel exception allowing [general manager Neil Olshey] to spend as much as $5.3 million on a player for up to four years, and a biannual exception that will allow him to spend roughly $2.1 million on a player for up to two years. Beyond that? Don't expect a whole lot of fireworks from the Blazers this summer.
Freeman is right in the sense that Portland won't be shelling out big-time contracts to big-time players. However, this roster comprises one of the most effective starting lineups in the league, leaving backups as the targets during the summer of 2014.
Let's take a look at the players who could be on Portland's radar.
You can't start this conversation without first looking at the guy who almost single-handedly made it possible for Damian Lillard to catch his breath this past season.
Mo Williams has opted out of his contract with the Portland Trail Blazers, and while his willingness to let shots fly was a bit problematic at times, it's also the reason the team had any scoring at all from the second unit.
According to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com, Williams is Lillard's top choice in free agency. In Haynes' (and Lillard's) own words:
Sunday night when CSNNW.com asked All-Star point guard Damian Lillard if there are any free agents of his preference, first and foremost, he went with his dynamic backup.
“Yeah…Mo Williams,” Lillard responded in a text.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, B/R's Jared Zwerling has reported that the guard has interest in the Dallas Mavericks and a potential meeting is in the works. Portland needs to decide if a multi-year deal is worth committing to the 31-year-old. But even if it is, the Mavs could swoop in and steal the team's sixth man from 2013-14.
If the Portland Trail Blazers lose Williams this summer, they'll need to find a backup for Lillard, assuming C.J. McCollum isn't ready to take on the role of sixth man.
Enter Darren Collison.
Targeting Collison will be ambitious, but that's why he's made the cut when it comes to the team's top free-agent targets. He's coming off a strong season with the Los Angeles Clippers (11.4 PPG, 3.7 APG, 1.2 SPG), and it's yet to be seen if he'll require more than the mid-level exception—let alone if he'll leave L.A. at all.
At this point, we know that the Clippers are making Collison a priority in free agency. In a report from Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was quoted as saying, "You know our first guy, I'll be honest, is one of our guys that opted out."
"He's a little guy. That's very important for us."
Retaining Collison is important for the Clips, but that can't make Portland shy. The 26-year-old would be a great player to build the bench around, and he'd be a long-term piece to an ever-improving puzzle.
The Portland Trail Blazers have significant interest in Hawes, and it's easy to see why.
Hawes, 26, offers the team a long-term solution to a recurring problem: scoring off the bench. The former Washington Husky is a big man who can help spread the floor, and he'd likely come in and become one of the leading scorers (if not the top scorer) immediately in the second unit. He scored 13.0 points per game for the 76ers and 13.5 for the Cavaliers last season after a trade to Cleveland.
According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Portland reached out to Hawes and his agent not long after free agency began. In a separate Tweet, Wojnarowski reported that Portland head coach Terry Stotts "laid out how he'd use Hawes in meeting."
Knowing what we know about Portland's rotation (the starters play a whole lot of minutes), we'd likely see Hawes come in early for Robin Lopez, giving the team scoring while he plays down low. As soon as LaMarcus Aldridge comes out, it would likely become Hawes' duty to step outside and create lanes for slashers such as Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews.
A Hawes-to-Portland scenario makes sense from a basketball perspective, but you can't ignore the match off the court, either. The 7-footer played both high school and college ball in Seattle, giving him the Northwest ties necessary to recruit a big-time player to a relatively small market.
The biggest surprise name on Portland's radar is Monroe.
At this juncture, there's no evidence that Monroe is interested in signing with the Blazers. However, we know for a fact, courtesy of ESPN's Marc Stein, that the Trail Blazers organization has interest in the 24-year-old power forward/center.
If Monroe does indeed express a willingness to play in Rip City, the Blazers would have to conduct a sign-and-trade with the Detroit Pistons. Chances are, the deal (from Portland's perspective) would surround one of three players: Lopez, Batum or Matthews.
While Portland would be acquiring a potential All-Star to place alongside Aldridge on the block, the team would have to disrupt its core by trading one of the three aforementioned pieces. Additionally, the defense in the starting lineup would take a hit whether Lopez moved cities or moved to the bench, which is something this group likely can't afford.
Consider the good with the bad in order to form your own opinion of this possibility, but know that Monroe would be a big-time pickup. It's up to the Blazers to decided what his price tag is, but whatever it ends up being, you know you're targeting a young talent with plenty of offensive potential.
Frye won't offer the Blazers much in the department of low-post defense, but he'll give the team another shooting threat off the bench as he's had a double-digit scoring average for four years running, which is something the league's worst-scoring second unit could desperately use.
The problem here is obvious: Frye opted out of a contract with the Phoenix Suns that was worth more than what Portland can offer this summer. Why would a 31-year-old take less money and a lesser role after starting in all 82 games for the surprising Suns?
This is where the Blazers need to pull out the nostalgia card.
Frye, who played in Portland for two seasons early in his career, has been embraced by Portlanders for many years. According to a 2010 article written by The Oregonian's Mike Tokito, the big man met his wife while in the Northwest, has a summer home in town and even has a signature dish named after him at a local eatery.
Then, of course, there's the shot at a deep playoff run. The Suns played extremely well together last season, but unless they can pull off a big-time acquisition in free agency (likely taking minutes away from Frye), there's little chance they compete for a title in 2015.
Frye could ultimately be too expensive for Portland this summer, but according to the man himself "coming back would be an option." That quote comes courtesy of The Oregonian's Joe Freeman, and it gives fans hope for a return from a onetime fan favorite.
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