Tuesday, April 25, 2006

About Zach...

No question looms bigger on the horizon, or causes more pasionate debate, than what to do with Z-Bo this summer. Nobody can agree on who he is or what his game should be, let alone his potential value on the court or in a trade.

Clearly Zach is a world class scorer and offensive rebounder. He is able to get his own shot at will from inside or outside and has an amazing, almost instinctive sense for the basket. On nights when he's on, he's nearly undefendable...clearly the only Blazer with that distinction.

Beyond these areas, however, he's no more than ordinary. He's short for his position and far more crafty than athletic. He is no better than an average one-on-one defender, maybe slightly above average because of his upper body strength on nights when he's motivated and the opponent isn't agile. He cannot defend the perimeter, nor does he jump out well defending pick and rolls. He is a horrible help defender and is not a shot blocker. His picks are completely ineffective. He will ruin your transition game because he's taken to playing between the free thrown lines and because he just doesn't get up and down the court quickly (due to surgery or effort, you make the call). He does not have great court vision nor the inclination to pass. Finally, and perhaps most damningly, for a supposedly great rebounder, he's decidedly mediocre on the defensive boards. Twenty-one out of the thirty teams in the league have forwards that grab more defensive boards than Z-Bo. This contributes to our defensive woes and our inability to run more.

I think it's ridiculous to expect Zach to be what he's not. He is not Tim Duncan. He is not KG. He is never going to be. Seldom do NBA players show marked improvement in the areas he's weak. Few guys develop from non-shot blockers to swat monsters. Non-hustle guys almost never get scrappier as they get older. Passive defenders don't morph into lock-down stalwarts. It's reasonable to assume that Zach will average 20 someday. It's reasonable to assume that his outside shot will continue to improve. Other than that, you better be prepared to bite the bullet and cover for his weaknesses.

Many people have offered suggestion on how to do just that, but I have found them questionable. They include:

1. "We need to get a shooter to take the pressure off of him." Yes, this would help some, but mostly on the offensive end, which is already his strong suit. Even then, Zach will hamper the effectiveness of any shooter on the floor with him because he holds the ball for 4-5 seconds every time he touches it, allowing the defense to rotate. He isn't the kind of player who can help the shooter help him. (Martell, for instance, would be far more effective in a two man game with Joel than he is with Zach because Joel sets good picks and moves well without the ball.) What's more, at least half of Zach's points nowadays come from the perimeter, so he is the shooter. You could almost argue we need a post player. Also, with Zach's other shortcomings, that shooter better be a stick defender, tall, and have some rebounding and passing skills too. Now you're talking Michael Jordan, and where are you going to get him?

2. "Zach would be a great second option." If you look at the best second guys in history (like Pippen, Worthy, and McHale), despite being different type of players they all had a few things in common. They were multi-faceted...they all contributed at an all-star level in something else besides scoring, so when they didn't have the ball they were still a big plus for the team. They all had superior court sense and passing ability, so they were just as dangerous setting up plays as they were completing them. They all made their moves quickly, neither needing to touch the ball every possession nor dominating it when they did touch it. None of these things apply to Zach. He is a "tweener" with a first-option skill set and mentality but without the all-around superstar game to carry a team.

3. "If we just get some veteran help the team will fall in line." The problem is, your best player is the guy who sets the tone. You can get all the Wesley Persons and Brian Skinners you want, but unless they're out there getting major minutes, touches, and dollars nobody is going to listen, least of all players like Zach himself. In this way Zach might actually inhibit whatever veteran influence we bring in. Is there any doubt that he's one of the players Joel, Theo, McMillan, and Nash referenced this season when talking about lack of preparation, attitude, and exemplary behavior?

For all these reasons, I fall into the "move Zach" camp. I do not doubt his talent, I just doubt he's right for this team and I think it would be difficult to build around him successfully. Of course I'd have misgivings about trading our best player, but then again, between Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Elton Brand, Dwight Howard, Shawn Marion, and Chris Bosh, Zach is no better than the ninth best player in the league at his own position (and could be as low as 13th or 14th depending on who you value). I don't see him moving past those players any time soon either. Between that, his contract, and his attitude lately, he becomes easier to part with.

Thoughts can be sent to blazersub@yahoo.com if you're so inclined. I'm always looking for good conversation.



Blogger rosco said...

Alright, Dave!

I was hoping you'd use those sub duties to your advantage. Way to start a blog! I love it.

And now, I will have about five sites to read every morning about my beloved Blazers.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Doug said...

I agree with u 100% Dave. If we could trade Zach and Darius it would be a good offseason for Portland, reguardless of who we get in return as long as they had a good attitude. Then we could pick up Aldridge in the draft! In my opinion I think that we also need to move Steve Blake in the offseason. Not because he hasnt done well in Portland (hes been great!) its just that we need to let Telfair take over and have Jack back him up and maybe pick up a veteran point guard that knows his role as 3rd point guard. Blake deserves to play so we need to send him someplace where he can play and we can get some value out of him at the same time. What are your thoughts? Aldridge in the draft?

3:09 PM  
Anonymous jack said...

I think we should give Jarrett Jack the reigns at point. He is big and defends the ball and has shown a decent jumper that will get better. Reminds me of a chauncey billups. Trade Z-bo, Darius, Seabass and the 30th pick for KG. Draft Adam Morrison. Re-sign Joel. Trade Dixon, he will cry if put in a backup position. Maybe trade Blake if he won't be happy backing up.
Starting Five and Backups:
Joel Theo Ha
KG Skinner
Morrison Viktor Outlaw
Webster Lenard
JJ Blake

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Karven said...

I completely agree with your assesment of Zach. He is not the answer for the Blazers. It was obvious the last few games of the season by how well everyone else played with him out of the lineup. The ball movement was better and the effort was better at both ends of the floor. That being said that creates two big questions. First who do you trade Zach for and Second what direction do you go in the draft? The major thing missing all season (besides effort and defense) Has been rebounding. In my opinion that is what really killed the blazers this year. Zach playing the perimeter doesn't put him in prime rebounding position, playing a small back court doesn't help and Joel and Theo spent a lot of time when they weren't injured helping off their man which left people open. So do you go for a rebounding/shot blocking power forward like Aldrige or Thomas? Or a shooter like Morrison? Or do you roll the dice on a 7' small forward that can do a little of everything like Bargnani? I have to admit that I am very intrigued by him. I also think that it's interesting that Nash is in Europe right now scouting him. It seems to me that having a Dirk Nowitzki
type player might not be such a bad thing.

4:18 PM  
Blogger ignacio said...

I agree with you. Zach could score 22-25 a game and it wouldn't make his team win. He's more of an Adrian Dantley type than a PF at this point. (And AD was another undersized ballhog but he led the league in scoring and averaged 30pts/game and shot 55% some years.)

When Nate won in Seattle he had mean, aggressive rebounders/defenders/flagrant foul artists like Danny Fortson and Reggie Evans.

Unlike some, I'm not all that enamored of Joel's game. Blocked shots can be a very deceptive stat. This year was his chance to demonstrate that he could play 30 minutes a game for a full season and he fell far short.

Lord I hope we don't draft Adam Morrison. He played at a small college, can't play defense, can't jump -- and he's also a diabetic. To completely dismiss that as a possible future problem is naive.

Sure, in a whitebread market like Portland, I understand the allure of these white guys, but it seems like this aspect is blinding some to the reality of how limited as players they are.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

Put me solidly in the trade Randolph camp. Dave mentions all the reasons that made me cringe when the Blazers gave him a long term contract.

What can we get? Supposedly Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal could be available this summer, but if asked to put money down, I'd bet on seeing them in Timberwolf and Pacer uniforms next Oct. Perhaps the Maaloof brothers can be enticed into a deal involving both Zach and Miles. I'd even take Artest in such a deal. But I don't see the Maaloof's being that dumb.

As for the pick - assuming we don't trade it as part of a KG/O'Neal deal, using it on Morrison would be a mistake, for all the reasons already mentioned here. I don't know much about Bargnani, but he does sound intriguing. Brandon Roy might be a good pickup. At 6-6 he could swing to the SF spot. Better yet, Martell could play the position. One last possibility is to trade it for a first rounder in next year's draft. It's possible that both Greg Ogden and Joachim Noah could be available. With 2 picks in the top 5, the Blazers would be in a great position.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Ralph said...

I am not all that negative on Zach. It was suprising but while Miles was out Zach started to play some defense and became a better passer. He even did some weak side help. I think McMillan can develop him if the cast around him is first class. Trade Dixon as he will be the next cancer when Martell gets his minutes. This all assumes Miles MUST go.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blazers end up with pick #4.

I see Toronto taking Aldridge or Bargani with the first pick of the draft; dependent on which one they think will fit in at "C"...word is Toronto is hot on Bargnani.

Chicago doesn't need a SF as they have two solid ones in Nocioni and Deng. The don't really need defensive specialist like Tyrus Thomas either, who is the same height as Sweetney. I see them going for whoever the Raptors don't pick between Bargnani/Aldridge.

Looking at the Bobcats - they'd love a SG; but it's simply too high for Brandon Roy; unless they want to trade down. Expecting to get Okafor back; and already the leading "Steals" defense - they can afford to have a defensive deficiency like Morrison. They need his offense and their last few picks have been from successful college teams.

Of the consensus top five; that leaves the Blazers deciding between Thomas/Gay. Ironically, these guys are EXACTLY the same age. Check it out for yourself.

Randolph is going to be too difficult to move for value; and it is more urgent for us to shed Miles.

Think back when the Blazers acquired Miles - what were they trying to do? Have an athletic, defensive stopper. They know that Randolph is a liability on defense. Morrison, if still available would not be a good fit - Randolph and Morrison on the same floor would make an atrocious defense. Gay is criticized for not being aggressive enough on offense; but no one is critical of his defense. I say he is the right fit and hope that he is still on the board.

Read about his workout on draftexpress.com; and I think you'll see some determination that he is looking to shed that "all potential/no passion" image

10:21 PM  

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