How vain it is to sit down to write when you haven't stood up to live?
Originally Drafted: JUNE 18, 2012
BY KYLE CHAPMAN
Well Blazer fans, we have once again approached a fork in the road for our beloved franchise with plenty of holes to fill this summer. While other teams this offseason will be undertaking limited remodeling to their house, patching up a few holes here and there, the Blazers don’t even have a damn house yet. In fact, our blueprint was just inked two weeks ago. At the moment we have no coach, half a roster, and just signed our GM Neil Olshey a few weeks ago, giving him less than four weeks to prepare before he starts making significant decisions to try and get the ball rolling again. Six months ago, if you mentioned “Blazers” and “draft lottery” in the same sentence I would have been pissed off and rather offended. However, on the bright side, we do have a pair of lottery picks and money to spend in free agency pool to wheel-and-deal. This is going to be a huge summer coming up for the Blazers, and between those two top picks and cap space, there’s going to be huge decisions made that will shape our franchise for the next 3-5 years to come. These decisions are either going to turn us into a conference contender, or will turn us into an average team, treading water, trying to stay afloat and relevant on the edge of the playoff picture.
Like any fork in the road, there are different directions one can take, clearly some with more potholes and dead-ends than the others. With this piece, I hope to grab that imaginary wheel that Olshey is clutching and steer us in the right direction. I’m not going to project trades, because Im not the swami (Chris Berman) and I take speculative analysis (and “sources”) with a grain of salt. As we all should! I’m only going to touch on players who are actually available. I’m going to be breaking this offseason preview down in the order I think our new GM should be breaking down our current situation and I will conclude this preview with a final roster that is the most realistic to obtain, and makes us a contender alongside the Oklahoma City Thunder as soon as next year. Bold statement, yes—but, hell, let’s dive into this mess, see if we can turn our franchise around, make the right turn, and get this vehicle going into the right direction. Grab a brew, your favorite smoke, kick back and enjoy my Blazers summer preview…
CURRENT DEPTH CHART
PG Nolan Smith
SG Wes Mathews / Elliot Williams
SF Nic Batum??? / Luke Babbitt / Shawne Williams???
PF LaMarcus Aldridge / J.J. Hickson??? / Kurt Thomas
**** ???= Players contracts aren’t guaranteed****
CURRENT DEPTH CHART EXPLANATION:
I go three teams deep, because a championship contender requires a deep team (or a stardom package, Big-Three), so the Blazers must be at least two-deep at every position, and even three-deep in the front court (think—foul trouble and injuries). I’m also trying to give you a visual of the holes we need to fill, and by doing the depth chart this way I hope you see the holes are everywhere, which means that one player won’t fix this thing. If we keep J.J. Hickson, the PF position is the only spot where I can confidently say we are set. Hickson, Aldridge, Thomas, and Shawne Williams (if he stays) will form a core group to work around. As you can see the cupboards are bare at center, where the only guy we have rights to is overseas in Joel Freeland.
Olshey must address that position once and most likely twice this Summer (re-sign Przybilla anyone?). I have Wes Matthews on the second team, because I feel he would be better for us being that spark off the bench with his perimeter defense, also serving as that dangerous wildcard player that can drop a 20-spot on any given night. Also, Matthews has the ability to play the three as well, so he basically would be that first wing player coming into the game, and would contend with J.J. Hickson as our established 6th man. I have Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams on the 3rd team (might get shit for this), because I can only go off last year, and while Williams showed promise, I personally feel that if we want to win a championship, we must bring in a better scoring threat who also can handle the ball. We have too many spot-up shooters (i.e. Matthews, Batum, Babbitt) and none of them can create their own shot. Last year we really missed Brandon Roy’s ability to create independently, especially late in the 4th quarter. This past year, the ball was being treated like a damn hot potato down the stretch. Nobody on our roster could take over the game, which resulted in bad judgement plays galore, and end-of-the-shot-clock type desperation heaves at the bucket. Aldridge on many occasions said he wanted to be the go-to-guy down the stretch, but rarely got to show us what he could do, due to him being constantly double-teamed. Turnovers were also a major concern late in games, deflating our knack to make spring together nice comebacks by shooting ourselves in the foot. Even our best ball handler Raymond Felton didn’t want the ball in the 4th resulting in late-game brain farts, and back-breaking mishaps. My point is, we have to bring in someone who can take over the damn ball, the damn game, and in stretches where the offense is struggling; we need someone to step up and make a ballsy play when nobody else on the court is willing to step up.
#1: POINT GUARD-
We need a floor general and a guy who can distribute the ball to the weapons we already have, and the weapons we hope to acquire this summer. If we can find a good passing triggerman, it could put us in a position to be a perennial playoff team for the next five years. If there’s anything to be learned from the Mavericks playoff run last year, it’s that all you have to do is make it to the playoffs, get hot, and you can win a title. Between Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Aaron Brooks, Goran Dragic, and rookies Kendall Marshall or Damian Lillard, the Blazers must get one of these point guards to become relevant again. I selfishly want two of these point guards which I’ll explain later, but If we don’t end up with one of these seven PG’s, then we’ll be looking at a 2nd-tier, average type group (i.e. Jameer Nelson, Kirk Hinrich, D.J. Augustine and Andre Miller), or 2nd-tier rookies like Marquis Teague or Tru Holloway. I’ll take Miller right now just because he has good chemistry with LA, but I still don’t think it gets us past the first round in the playoffs. So I’ll get it out right now, no disrespect to the second group, but if we end up with anybody other than the first group of PG’s then we are F@#&%D! Period. And If we end up with anybody not in those first two groups? Then the wheels have completely fallen of the wagon.
I don’t think I need to, (nor want to) go back and talk about past Blazer centers, so I’m going to spare you the salty tears. Bottom line is we are back full circle from where this all began, again looking for a big man to anchor our front line on the block, in the paint. No disrespect to Aldridge, but he’s only starting to make his presence known in the paint on the offensive end, and defensive plays like that end of the game block on Durant show what he’s capable of, but defensive plays in the paint like that are too few and far between for LA. He’s more of a high-floating big man like Bosh or Garnett, so we need a defensive presence to compliment him and take over the paint on defense, while also crashing the boards on the offensive end. I’m not counting on Freeland coming over, so technically the center spot is wide-open. There’s restricted free-agent centers like Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee, or Brook Lopez to consider making an offer for, or we could go young in the draft and take a center like Andre Drummond, Tyler Zeller, or Leonard Meyer. As for the un-restricted centers that are available, we can go after Chris Kaman, or if we are desperate, reunite with Marcus Camby or Jermaine O’Neal. Of all the big men, I would love a Roy Hibbert addition, especially knowing he’s durable. Plus, if Aldridge happened to miss a game or two, Hibbert’s presence would make J.J. Hickson thrive, and the team wouldn’t skip a beat without our All-Star. Unfortunately, after the Heat series, I think Pacers will match any offer on Hibbert.
So, other than stealing Roy Hibbert from the Pacers with a big-time deal, we need to look in the draft for a center, and use our money towards signing an impact guard in free agency.
#3: SHOOTING GUARD-
Lastly, we need a starting shooting guard who can put the ball on the floor, and create his own shot. I agree with the people that believe if we keep Batum we need to figure out if we want to keep him at SF or move him to SG, because deciding where we want him to play will help us in the upcoming draft where good players will be available at both spots. Batum can defend both positions on defense, but offensively he hasn’t shown in the NBA that he can put the ball on the floor. I say in the NBA, because I’ve read in Europe he’s actually great at leading the pick n’ roll with the ball in his hands, but he has yet to show us he can do it on this side of the pond. So until then, I believe we keep him at SF and pick up a guard that can create. In the draft there’s SG’s like Bradley Beal, Jeremy Lamb, and Austin Rivers. All three can create their own shot, and both Beal and Rivers have actually shown big time late-game ability. In Free-Agency, Eric Gordon (Restricted) tops the cake at SG, then the next three big names are Ray Allen, OJ Mayo and Landry Fields. I think Luke Babbitt of all our young players has the best chance of getting into the rotation due to his 3-ball, so it’s time to take the training wheels off of him. I’m putting my faith in Babbitt and Batum locking down our 3 spot, with a little sprinkle of Matthews as well. So if we have Batum and Babbitt at SF, Matthews as our back up SG, then all we have to do is find a starting SG and we would have our wing positions locked down with Williams as well. This is the last of our needs due to us having the luxury of a Wes Matthews as our fall back option, unlike the first two positions where there’s absolutely nobody, so obviously the focus should be on the PG and center positions first.
PLAYER CONTRACTS/ SALARY CAP TALK (click to enlarge)
After draft= $40,043,881… When doing these cap numbers I’m assuming Shawne Williams accepts his player option ($3,135,000), and Crawford opts out of his player option ($5.25M). Also, I added both Batum and Hickson’s Q-offers, along with the rookie salaries of our 6th ($2,554,200) and 11th ($1,772,100) picks, because they go against the cap the second the players are drafted. Second round picks get the league minimum. So by adding up the 2012-13 contracts including Hickson & Batum’s ($35,717,581) and combined rookie contracts ($4,326,300) that’s how I came up with this salary cap number of $40,043,881.
About $20 Million… The new cap is set in July before each year, so that’s why there’s no exact figures on cap numbers for 2012-13 yet. According to the multiple articles I’ve read when hunting the team cap numbers for next year, the projected cap for this upcoming year is between $58-61 million, so I used $60 million as the cap number to estimate my projection above. Last year the cap for each team was set at $58,044,000. Also, once we use our cap space, we will get a extra $5.76 million with the mid-level exception that every team gets if you go over the Cap (and yes even the Heat and Lakers get this every year as well). So its almost like we have $25 million to play with. The great thing about Batum or Hickson’s new contracts (assuming they each get one) is they wouldn’t count against the team’s cap until three days after they sign it, which means the Blazers would still have the flexibility to use up the full $20 million in cap space.
Then after three days, if we decided to use up the cap, Batum’s contract would go against the hard cap, where each team has $45-million in hard cap space if they choose to use it, a la Heat and Lakers. All this is confusing, I know, but bottom line is we must make the most of our cap space quickly due to Batum’s pending contract.
PICKS:-6th PICK (Acquired by the Nets in Gerald Wallace trade)
-40th PICK (Minnesota’s Pick, acquired thru the Rockets in Camby trade)
This year’s draft you won’t see multiple superstars like the 2003 draft, but it’s deep in the sense that you can find quality starters like Austin Rivers, Terrence Jones, and Tyler Zeller at the end of the lottery. Towards the end of the first round there’s going to be good players like Moe Harkless (St. John’s), Jae Crowder (Marquette), Draymond Green (Mich St), and Drew Gordon (New Mexico) that could be available. I’m not high on the big men in this Draft class outside of the top two, Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson, which should explain my top-5 players I want as a Blazer below, because I don’t have a big man on it. Of all the front-court players outside the top-two, Tyler Zeller and Myers Leonard are the only big men who I would trust, mainly because they play with effort that matches their skills. However, I still would take Andre Drummond over them because Drummond is an athletic freak, but Drummond has Andrew Bynum syndrome and plays with no heart. This is a sad thing, because he has the potential to get to an Andrew Bynum/Dwight Howard type level. Then there’s Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III, who both have size and work ethic questions, so in the end I would take Drummond first, Leonard, then Zeller. The SF position is the deepest position in the draft this year. Prospects like Crowder, Harkless and Green will be late-first/early-second round picks, on top of the top-three SF prospects Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, and local prospect Terrence Jones. To me all six SF’s will be at the very least solid players in the league. I love the guards coming out this year, especially at the top where I think Bradley Beal, Kendall Marshall, Damian Lillard, Austin Rivers and Jeremy Lamb are all going to be studs, especially Beal and Lillard. Speaking of Beal from Florida, he is my favorite prospect regardless of position in this year’s class, and at the end of draft night, he is the prospect I want ending up in a Blazer jersey. I’m going on record right now; I don’t want to trade our draft picks. BUT!!! If there is one player I would trade up for it is certainly Beal, because mark it down people—he will be special, but won’t be around at #6. So Blazers front office, if we like him, then let’s go get him. Regardless if we keep the picks or not, there will be good players to be had throughout the draft, and if we pick the right players we can help our team out in several areas, whether it’s with the two lottery picks in the 1st round, or with the two picks in the 2nd round.
TOP-5 ROOKIES I WANT IN A BLAZERS JERSEY:
#5. Kendall Marshall, PG-North Carolina
-Unselfish, great passing skills, deceptive quickness, and a half-court floor general.
#4. Austin Rivers, SG-Duke
-Creates his own shot, great ball handler, gets to the foul line, and wants the ball in tight moments.
#3. Terrence Jones, SF-Kentucky
-great athlete, great shot blocker, good finisher, and fills up the stat sheet.
#2. Damion Lilliard, PG-Weber State
-scoring PG, gets to the rim, explosive in transition, and great shooter off the dribble.
#1. Bradley Beal, SG-Florida
-Rebounding guard, lights out shooter, good defender, and creates his own shot.
TOP-10 PLAYERS COMBINED IN DRAFT & FREE-AGENCY
I did this Top-10 based on players I think fit our team best, and who I would take if I were the GM of the Blazers. To be a good team you must have the right pieces, and great teams usually fit like a puzzle because let’s face it, there’s usually not too many Heat and Celtic teams that have 3 future Hall-of-Famers on it. As you view each position try and notice the veterans available. One thing you will notice is the SF spot is weak in Free-Agency, and if we wanted a player at that position, I would look in the Draft. Other then SF, every other position looks solid with a good combination of Rookies and Veterans. I’ve never seen a Top-10 list of Rookies and Free-Agents combined like this, so I like to think I’m starting a trend with this combined list, so please tell me if you’ve seen this before. Remember this is my TOP-10 based on who fits us best, and not by who is the best player.
*SALARY IS WHAT THEY MADE LAST YEAR IN 2011-12
(*BOLD REPRESENTS ROOKIES)
1. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets – $16.4 million – Player Option ($17.8 million)
2. Damian Lillard, Weber State (R)
3. Aaron Brooks, Phoenix Suns – $2.0 million – Restricted ($3.0 million Q.O.)
4. Chauncey Billups, L.A. Clippers – $2.0 million – Unrestricted
5. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns – $11.7 million – Unrestricted
6. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (R)
7. Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets-$2.1 million- Unrestricted
8. Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets-$7.8 million – Unrestricted
9. D.J. Augustin, Charlotte Bobcats-$3.2 million – Restricted ($4.4 million Q.O.)
10. Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic-$7.8 million – Player Option ($7.8 million)
1. Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets – $3.8 million – Restricted ($5.1 million Q.O.)
2. Bradley Beal, Florida (R)
3. Ray Allen, Boston Celtics – $10.0 million – Unrestricted
4. Austin Rivers, Duke (R)
5. Landry Fields, New York Knicks – $0.8 million – Unrestricted
6. Jeremy Lamb, UCONN (R)
7. O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies – $5.6 million – Restricted ($7.4 million Q.O.)
8. Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks – $10.7 million – Unrestricted
9. Nick Young, L.A. Clippers – $3.7 million – Unrestricted
10. Quinton Ross, Washington (R)
1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky (R)
2. Terrence Jones, Kentucky (R)
3. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (R)
4.Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns – $6.5 million – Unrestricted
5.Jeff Green, Boston Celtics – $4.5 million – Restricted ($7.2 million Q.O.)
6. Moe Harkless, St. John’s (R)
7. Jae Crowder, Marquette (R)
8. Draymond Green, Michigan State (R)
9. Sam Young, Philadelphia 76ers – $0.9 million – Unrestricted
10. Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz – $0.8 million – Unrestricted
1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky (R)
2.Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics – $21.2 million – Unrestricted
3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs – $21.2 million – Unrestricted
4. Thomas Robinson, Kansas (R)
5. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (R)
6. Kenyon Martin, L.A. Clippers – $2.5 million – Unrestricted
7. Perry Jones, Baylor (R)
8. John Hanson, North Carolina (R)
9. Ivan Johnson, Atlanta Hawks – $0.5 million – Unrestricted
10. Carl Landry, New Orleans Hornets – $8.5 million – Unrestricted
1. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers – $2.6 million – Restricted ($3.7 million Q.O.)
2. Chris Kaman, New Orleans Hornets – $12.7 million – Unrestricted
3. Andre Drummond, UCONN (R)
4. Meyers Leonard, Illinois (R)
5. JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets – $2.5 million – Restricted ($3.5 million Q.O.)
6. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina (R)
7.Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers – $3.1 million – Restricted ($4.2 million Q.O.)
8.Jermaine O’Neal, Boston Celtics – $6.2 million – Unrestricted
9. Fab Melo, Syracuse (R)
10. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets – $3.1 million – Restricted ($4.2 million Q.O.)
MY DESIRED ROSTER AND CONCLUSION
-Joel Przybilla (re-sign)
PG: Chauncey Billups
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Nic Batum
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Andre Drummond (Rookie)
6TH: Wes Matthews, SG
7: J.J. Hickson, PF
8: Damian Lillard, PG (Rookie)
9: Joel Przybilla, C
10: Luke Babbitt, SF
11: Elliot Williams, SG
12: Nazr Mohammed, C
13: Nolan Smith, PG
14: Kurt Thomas, PF
15: Andres Nocioni, SF (throw-in for depth)
MY DEPTH CHART:
PG / Chauncy Billups / *Damian Lillard / Nolan Smith
SG / Ray Allen / Wes Matthews / Elliot Williams
SF / Nic Batum / Luke Babbitt / Andres Nocioni
PF / LaMarcus Aldridge / J.J. Hickson / Kurt Thomas
C / *Andre Drummond / Joel Przybilla / Nazr Mohammed
I don’t want to put all my eggs in the D-Will basket, so I’m going to hope for the best and expect the worst. I hope we get him, but if we don’t, then ultimately I would want the Blazers to settle on getting two point guards, BOTH a veteran PG and a rookie PG out of that first seven I mentioned above. This scenario might sound crazy but hear me out. I want to become a team that can contend next year and be a team that can contend in the future, so by getting both, we would have a veteran PG, and a bridge if you will, to fill the gap between now and the future. We’ve been hearing from both former and new GM’s Chad Buchanan and Neil Olshey that they don’t want an over-the-hill PG, and instead they want someone younger, which would eliminate Nash and Billups. While I agree with wanting a younger PG, other than Brooks or Dragic, there is nobody that fits that bill worth spending big time money on in free agency. And as much as I like Lillard and Marshall, would you have faith in them taking us past the first round next year? I wouldn’t, which is why unless we pull a trade, I think signing a veteran like Billups, Nash, or Andre Miller, and matching one of them with a young PG like Lillard, or Marshall would do wonders for us both now and in two years. If you notice, the free agents I have on the roster are all older (Billups & Allen) and would basically be one or two year deals on their contracts, so with this team we would still have flexibility either next summer, or in the following summer, to still add a big time player. With Billups and Allen’s experience and leadership alone, it would bring the type of leadership that Pippen brought to us, and bring back what was missing when Roy retired last December. In the draft along with getting a center and PG, getting a defensive minded SF in the second round would compliment Batum and Babbitt well. Also, with the two top rookies, Lillard and Drummond, we would have two nice pieces, and two future studs to go along with Aldridge and Batum to lead our team in the future. They would be the four cornerstones of our franchise to build around and grow together, like Olshey wants. Even though Deron Williams would be a nice and exciting pickup, it’s still going to take more then one player to take this team to a championship type level that us Blazer fans have been craving for since the Wallace, Pippen, and Sabas days. Let’s face it Blazer fans, if our GM can’t get it done with this much cap space, and two lottery picks in a good draft, then there’s little hope on the horizon for our Blazers. So to you GM Neil Olshey, there is only one thing to say… let’s get it done this summer buddy… GO BLAZERS!!!