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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Your Portland Trail Blazers Off-Season Report, Part Three

Posted by Ezra Ace Caraeff on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 8:42 AM

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Draft Day is like Christmas morning for us Blazers fans, and let's hope that papa Paul Allen buys us all a shiny new PG and backup PF. Santa baby, slide a crafty veteran under that tree.

To decipher this truly wonderful day, we sought the wisdom of Wendell Maxey. The Senior NBA Writer at HoopsWorld, and loving father of two, Maxey is a New York transplant that formerly did time covering the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. An adamant professional, Maxey just might be the smartest—and funniest—man to cover the Blazers. That said, I have no clue why he answered our dumb questions.

If they don't trade off their first pick, who are the Blazers going to draft at #24? [Note: I wrote this before yesterday's trade.]Nobody now. Seriously Ezra, keep up. Portland traded up in the draft—which I didn’t think they would do, to be honest—two spots and tossed in one of their second round picks (56) in a swap with Dallas. Wrote about this late Tuesday, but I figured Kevin Pritchard and company would move a couple of those second round picks and had a feeling they would make some sort of swap even before today’s draft got underway.

So the plot thickens a bit. They have a couple ways to go here. I still believe they are chasing North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough in a lot of ways. He’s a guy that has seen his draft stock rise in pre-draft workouts, and certainly fits the “banger” type Portland needs to backup LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward. Trouble is, Tyler may not be around when Portland picks at 22. Omir Casspi—the small forward kid from Israel—is an option. But if they take him, I think they’ll package him in another draft day trade. The thing is, so much depends on if Pritchard pulls a big deal prior to them making their first round selection. So at this point, it is anyone’s guess.

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Here's the totally plausible scenario: You and Kevin Pritchard bump into each other outside the Blazers' practice facility, and during your brief collision, your cell phones miraculous are swapped. You, Wendell Maxey, are the Blazers GM for a few hours (before you are arrested for theft). So who do you draft and trade?

It’s funny you mention that, because I’ve run into KP a couple times while out and about—once when me and the family were out to dinner, and also recently while working out. And his phone is never far from him that’s for sure. But I’d feel bad for him if he accidently ended up with my phone. He’d be in for trips to Segal’s to buy a pink double-child stroller and random outings to Target for diapers and baby wipes. Poor guy.

I know this, I’d make a couple calls to Memphis and keep hanging up. After that, who knows. I’m a realist, so I’d probably try and find someone who is willing to part with a scrappy power forward who isn’t afraid to come off the bench. My preference would be a veteran. If I could find someone in this draft—which we know is a weak class—then I’d pull the trigger, knowing I’d package him with a couple of roster players currently expendable. After that, I’d work a deal for an all-in-one point guard. If that means giving up a valuable asset to get him, I might have to consider that. I’d eventually sell Steve Blake on coming off the bench, and Jerryd Bayless on waiting his turn (this league is far too quick to hand keys to the team over to kids before they even know how to drive), and then I’d spend a bit to get what the teams needs, not what I want. There is a difference.

Lastly, I’d step out of the draft war room and make a couple calls around the league to find a “big man” coach for Greg Oden. And no, I’m not going to wait until the summer. This coach and Greg need to be connected at the hip. I’m thinking someone like Kevin Willis. Someone like Alonzo Mourning. Someone like Charles Oakley. Someone to put their forearm in Oden’s neck during personal workouts, so Greg in return does the same come game time next season.

But that’s just me.

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Is Channing Frye better off just retiring and joining the Blazers broadcasting team?
Man, I’d even tune in for that one. I feel for Channing. And you know the deal—I covered him for his first two seasons with the Knicks when I was back in New York. When he was traded to Portland on draft night back in 2007, I was two weeks away from packing up my wife and daughter and moving back to Portland. Maybe I was the player to be named later.

I was happy that he’d get a chance to start fresh after all that drama with the Knicks. And he felt the same. But even though he fell in love with the city, and the city fell in love with him, there hasn’t been any
cohesiveness on the floor when it comes to his game. This past season was a chance for him to prove his worth and earn his money in a contract year, and I don’t believe the organization saw what they wanted to see in making a future investment.

I’ve said it before, so I’ll recycle it here: if Channing was a cliché’, he’d be “good guys finish last.” I’ve heard some rumblings about two Eastern Conference teams who may be interested in him once free agency hits, so he’ll find a home somewhere. It’s just not going to be here.

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Which elderly point guard (AARPG?) are the Blazers most likely to acquire?
(a) Jason Kidd
(b) Andre Miller
(c) Steve Nash
(d) Jerry West
(e) [fill in the blank]

Shooooot….I’d take Oscar Robertson over any of those guys. "The Big O" averaged a triple-double for one season (1961-62), but he actually averaged a triple-double over the first five seasons of his career (1960-65). Ezra, how sick is that? What’s scary is Jason Kidd is the only one who comes close to those triple-double numbers wise right now, especially come the playoffs.

So if I had to pick between those top three, Kidd gets my vote. Followed closely by Nash. Very closely. Now, how “likely” is Portland in acquiring either one? I’m not even sure if we can go there yet without knowing what will unfold during today’s draft. Talk to me tomorrow.

Think about it though. Let’s say they bring in Kidd. If Bayless is Portland’s point guard of the future, then let him be mentored by one of the best. Let Blake and Bayless back-up Kidd. Let Kidd provide leadership, know-how and postseason experience. Let Nate McMillan completely trust his point guard to do the right thing. Let Kidd play off of Brandon Roy. Let Kidd’s window stay open for two more years (maybe less), then let Bayless do his thing. But don’t bring in another young point guard to sit the bench and wait for Blake and Bayless to duke it out. Just do the right thing at the point.

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In your opinion, do the Blazers win the division next season?
Are they healthy? Did they get their veteran power forward to back-up Aldridge and all-in-one point guard? Did they add toughness—both mentally and physically? Did they add depth? Did they add a coach for Greg?

Because that’s what it’s going to take. Denver will be better. Utah will be better. And Portland will be better if they address those concerns.

By the way, if you see KP around…..tell him I need my cell phone back. I’m supposed to meet the wife and kids at Baja Fresh at 6 o’clock.

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You can read more from Maxey at his entertaining blog: Beyond the Beat.

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