Just past the half way point of the season Saturday night, the Blazers stand at 22-20, currently good enough for the eighth seed in the playoffs. But its hard to believe squeezing into the playoffs will be considered a successful season in Portland. So what can the Blazers do prior to the deadline to reshape this team, if that is indeed what they plan to do?
You have to think that the only untouchables on the roster right now are LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews. Even Nic Batum’s name has been thrown around the rumor mill, although I don’t expect him to be going anywhere. Will the Blazers be taking a long or short-term approach to this team at the deadline? Let’s take a look at the options from each angle.
Stay put, supplement the bench; The Blazers can sit on the sidelines at the deadline and go to war with what they have, and what they have is a fair chance to make it to the playoffs, but not much beyond that. Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, the two most talked about trade candidates could remain with the team for the rest of the year, and Portland can address their future this summer. They could decline Andre Miller’s $7.8 million option, making him a free agent and opening up a little spending money, or they could pick up the option. Keep in mind, they trade him on or near draft day and shift his rights to another team who could then make their own decision on his option, which will make him pretty valuable at that particular time.
Considering that no one on the Blazers can come close to running the offense as well as Miller, it would come as no surprise to see him stay with the team. If they can’t get a young player or pick for him, he is most valuable to the Blazers by remaining a Blazer. Remember, the Sixers fell apart a season ago after allowing him to leave as a free agent. Portland wouldn’t be hurt by holding on to Marcus Camby either, given the value of centers in the league today and the uncertainty surrounding Oden, and Pryzbilla. He’s signed through next year and has expressed a desire to remain in Portland for the rest of his career.
The Blazers desperately need some scoring punch off the bench, and ironically Jerryd Bayless would be of help to them at the moment. I think the Blazers will look for players who can help them now, but also fit into the long-term picture. Sacramento’s Jason Thompson, and Omri Casspi come to mind. It makes little sense to give up anything of value for a half-hearted playoff push and Rich Cho knows that. They know this team isn’t winning a title short of an unforeseen blockbuster deal, and I’ll address the remote possibility of that in a bit.
Go young; With a lockout looming, the Blazers could decide to unload their veterans and prepare for the long haul. And if it does indeed happen and no one steps foot back on the court until 2012, that might be the appropriate route. Their will be veteran teams out their who look at the lockout and get a sense of urgency to make a run this year, and thats when a Marcus Camby can become even more valuable as the deadline approaches. Camby is no good to the Blazers sitting at home with the rest of the league and beyond that he will be 38 and free agent. The same goes for Andre Miller, who could help a lot of teams, as at very least an excellent back up on an elite team. Do you trade them now rather than let their value decrease? It depends on what you can get for these guys.
One potential destination for Camby, or backup Joel Pryzbilla could be Houston, who was recently rewarded a disabled players exception as compensation for Yao Ming. The Rockets have to be desperate for a big man at this point, and while the Rockets are amongst Portland’s main competition for a playoff spot theres a deal to be made that helps both teams. If you can get an outside shooter such as Courtney Lee or Chase Budinger, and maybe even add a first round pick, they could be enticed. Let’s face it, shooting and floor spacing is an issue for the Blazers. Jared Jeffries expiring deal can come back to make the numbers match and he can provide some defensive versatility off the bench. As Aldridge continues his proliferation, other teams are collapsing down on him, and it would help them to have another shooter he could kick the ball out to. Joel Pryzbilla has to prove he’s healthy before you consider his value though; and so far he’s looked more than a step slow.
Andre Miller is an under-appreciated player in the league, and considering his age I have a hard time gauging what his value would be on the trade market. Atlanta can use a point guard, as could Milwaukee and New Orleans. Brandon Jennings is hurt and the Bucks are floundering after an excellent second half last year raised expectations. Miller could help New Orleans limit Chris Paul’s minutes as they head towards the playoffs but the Blazers already have their first round pick from the Jerryd Bayless deal. Atlanta may not have anything that would appeal to Portland, and its tough to find a match with the Bucks as well, although I think Ersan Ilyasova would be a nice guy to add off the bench.
One more question to address. Is a bold move out of the question for the Blazers? The Western Conference is more wide open than it has been in recent years so it wouldn’t be a bad time to be aggressive and go for it. The guy I have in mind is Steve Nash. The Suns are going nowhere fast, and as painful as it would be to trade their franchise player, you have to think that they know their window to do so is closing fast. The Suns let Amare Stoudemire walk in free agency, and didn’t do well replacing him, rewarding forwards Josh Childress, Hakeem Warrick and Channing Frye with ill-advised multi-million dollar contracts. Acquiring Nash would instantly infuse energy into a Blazers team and fan base that certainly deserves it, and it’s not an outlandish financial risk considering he’s signed through next year at a fair $11 million.
Here’s my proposal; Andre Miller, Joel Pryzbilla and their expiring deals, Rudy Fernandez, and two first picks in exchange for Nash and the tax of taking on Hakeem Warrick’s four year deal. The deal opens up almost $16 million next year for the Suns, free’s them up to put Goran Dragic in the starting lineup, and allows Phoenix to evaluate what they have without Nash. It may not be enough but its a start. It’s an idea. I think what would bother Blazer fans most would be to toil away in the middle of the pack. You can go bold or you can grow mold, and this would most certainly be bold.
We will know much more in the coming weeks what direction the Blazers are going in.
About the Author
Written by Brandon Marcus
I am 25 year old native New Yorker. I went to the University of Florida where I got my degree Sports Management. I am a die hard fan of the New York Giants, Knicks, Mets and the movie, Die Hard. I'll be covering the Portland Trail Blazers, but also will keep my eye on the league as a whole, and will drop in from time to time with some random thoughts.