With $7.7 million in cap space, the Portland Trailblazers headed into the free agency signing period with high hopes to sign a star player. They hoped to add a piece to the young team that had won 54 games, in order to set them up for a championship run in 2009-2010.
The Blazers first looked to fill a hole at the small forward position with Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu had reached the NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic and played a pivotal role in their success. The Blazers hoped that Turkoglu could play the same role for them.
Instead of choosing to sign with the young, talented Blazers, Turkoglu chose the Toronto Raptors, where his wife wanted to be in a place because of the large Turkish community.
Next, the Blazers looked to steal restricted free agent, Paul Millsap, from their division rival Utah Jazz. Since Millsap was a free agent, the Jazz could match any offer that the Blazers and Millsap agreed to and Millsap would have to stay with the Jazz.
Not wanting to lose out on another free agent, Blazer's general manager Kevin Pritchard drew up a "toxic" four-year, $32 million offer that would pay Millsap $10.3 million within one week.
In a shocking move, the Utah Jazz decided to match the offer and retain Millsap. Thiscrushed the Blazer's plans of adding the 250-lb. bruiser to the their roster.
The question now is, what will Pritchard do with the $7.7 million in cap space? Should they go after another free agent, even though many of the ones they wanted are already signed? Or should they could take a risk and make a trade for a star player and be forced to give up some of their young talent?
Andre Miller, David Lee, and Lamar Odom are all available free agents who would help the Blazers' quest for an NBA title. But all of them present negatives, as well.
Andre Miller is 33-years-old and would provide a strong veteran leader for the Blazers. He has only missed five games in his 11-year career, and his ability to run the offense would be a valuable asset.
However, Miller has never made it to the second round of the playoffs. The Blazers are looking for a veteran that knows how to win in the playoffs to help them avoid an early exit they suffered from the Houston Rockets last year.
Miller also lacks perimeter shooting, but would definitely be an upgrade in the starting lineup over Steve Blake or Jerryd Bayless.
Another free agent that Portland has considered pursuing is Lamar Odom of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Odom is an impact player and would add scoring and excitement to the Blazers lineup.
However, Odom doesn't fit the new image that Portland has instituted in their franchise since the "Jailblazers" days.
In 2001, Odom was suspended for violating the NBA's drug policy for the second time in eight months. Pritchard is sure to be cautious in evaluating the effects Odom would have on the team so that the young Blazers can continue being model citizens.
If Portland chooses to pass on Miller, Odom, or another big-time free agent, a smart move would be to sign a cheap role player, such as former Blazer Ime Udoka.
This would save the money from the cap space, in order to pull off a deal at the trade deadline in February to put the team in a position to win in the playoffs.
Whatever Pritchard decides to do, he must careful with the repercussions any deal can have. He built this team from nothing and has turned it into a playoff contender. He's arguably the best GM in the NBA, and there's no better man to make this decision for Portland.
In Pritchard, I trust.
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