Friday, July 07, 2006

Making sense of it all: The Blazers offseason

On draft night it seemed like every 5 minutes, the Portland Trailblazers would announce another trade. The whirlwind of deals brought in quite a haul. They walked away with LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Sergio Rodriguez, Joel Freeland, Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau and 3 second round picks (Indiana's 2007 and 2008 and Memphis' 2008). On draft night, they also traded away Viktor Khyrapa, Theo Ratliff and Sebastian Telfair. They've also reportedly re-signed Joel Pryzbilla to a 5-yr/$30 million deal.

For the first time in a long time, things are looking up for Blazer fans. They drafted arguably the best big man and the consensus best guard. Rodriguez is has phenomenal ball-handling skills, but I'm reserving judgment until I get a sense of his court awareness. Freeland will probably never play in the NBA but with the sheer number of players added to the Blazer's roster, keeping him overseas for awhile seems like the best idea. I was lukewarm on the Telfair trade initially, but now think the Blazers got a huge steal. The trade is essentially Roy/LaFrentz for Telfair/Ratliff. The Blazers duo is more talented, in my humble opinion, plus Dickau is an adequate back-up PG, most likely to be used as trade bait. Keeping Pryzbilla will help solidify their frontcourt defense and allow Aldridge time to develop.

On draft night, they made one strategic mistake, but made up for it with a great move later. The Bulls had heard that the Blazers really wanted Aldridge. The Bulls were going to pick Thomas regardless, but were able to acquire Khyrapa through a nice piece of acting. While their informants failed the Blazers with regards to Aldridge, solid espionage helped them acquire Roy. The Timberwolves and Rockets had agreed on a trade which would have had Roy headed to Houston with Foye (whom the Rockets would draft at 8) ending up with Minnesota. When the B Blazers found this out, they grabbed Foye and forced Minnesota to deal Roy to them instead.

The team still has many problems. Darius Miles is a cancer, an extremely overpaid cancer. Zach Randolph has a phenomenal offensive game, but seems to lack the desire to rebound, defend or get into good playing shape. They currently have 4 point guards (Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack, Dickau and Rodriguez) none of whom have proved much in the NBA. The players, especially Miles and Randolph, did not seem to respond to Nate McMillan's coaching. Unfortunately for the Blazers Miles is signed through 2010 at about $8-9mil/year and Randolph is scheduled to call Portland his home until 2011 to the tune of some $15mil/year. Neither of those contracts seems movable (except maybe to New York, both seem like "Isiah players").

Nevertheless with Roy, Aldridge, Pryzbilla and an improving Martell Webster, the future seems bright. If one of the point guards can emerge, this is a team that could go places, yet another rising competitor to give the Lakers fits.


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