Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I Be the GM

Last week someone e-mailed and asked me to take a stand on specific players I'd keep or release. So here you go...

I'd try like heck to re-sign Joel for the MLE, maybe a 4-5 year deal if he'd take it, less if he wanted. As I've said before, that's a decent player at a good price. Even if he ended up being your backup eventually it's still good at that salary considering what centers get paid nowadays. I'd also keep Theo at least one more year because we need backup if Joel bolts and because his expiring contract will be very valuable trade bait from June, 2007 through February, 2008. And why in the world would you move Ha at this point? If you're going to have a 15th man, he might as well be 7'3", young, and fairly mobile. What are you losing by keeping him? So basically the center position stays the same.

More controversially, as I've said before, I'd keep all three point guards. For a deeper reasoning you can read the post from last month's archives. In short, I think it'll eventually come down to Bassy and Jack for the starting position, but I don't think anybody knows which it will be yet. Given that this could be a franchise-changing decision, I'd like another year of work sampling to figure it out. I don't think Bassy will be a bench guy ever, so if he's not the man we could trade him next year. If Bassy is the starter, then can Jack work off the bench as a combo guard? If not, we move him and keep Blake. Otherwise we let Blake's contract expire. I'd be comfortable with any of those scenarios, but I want to make sure we make the correct decision. If someone offers us a sock-knocking trade for Blake, that's OK too, but otherwise keep them all.

Martell is obviously a keeper for the 2-3 spot. Let's see what he does with more responsibility next year. Juan Dixon is not a long-term player for this team, especially with Jack and Blake riding along. If we do end up keeping him another year that's decent insurance at the 2-spot. If not, we'll fill in. Voshon is obviously gone, which is fine.

That brings us to the forwards. If you've read this stuff at all you know my preference would be to trade Zach and Darius as a package for cap space if at all possible (and I think it is). Skinner becomes your starting power forward for next season and the player you get in return will likely be a veteran 2-3 swingman whom you plug in to those positions, likely to start for a year. As far as Khryapa and Outlaw, Viktor would certainly help your team in the long run, but he's a bench player. If you believe Outlaw has a chance to be your starting 3 someday you keep him another year and give him a run. If you think he's topped out, go ahead and move him while he's still young. Either way I don't think it matters too much in the short term, but if you do want to roll the dice on Outlaw you probably have to listen to offers for Viktor.

I would then draft a big forward to play significant minutes behind Skinner this year. Either Aldridge or Bargnani would work (though the latter will probably end up as a small forward). Hopefully we could think about them challenging for the starting spot next year.

In summary...
Keep: Przybilla, Ratliff, Ha, Skinner, Webster, Telfair, Jack, either Outlaw or Khryapa (keeping both is OK too), and probably Blake.
Available for the right offer: Dixon, either Outlaw or Khryapa, maybe Blake.
Move: Zach, Darius (for cap space, not mediocre talent with big contracts...otherwise you might as well keep them)

This leaves us with a young team next year that probably won't win more than we did this year. It'll be another year to develop our backcourt and get playing time for our draft pick while the veterans hold the fort. After next season we have another high lottery pick, better developed youngsters, a powerful bargaining chip in Theo's contract, and a lot of cap room to play with (see below).

If you keep the current team, even in the wildest fanboy's dream they probably don't make the playoffs next year. So if everything went 100% correct, you'd still end up with a team out of the post-season, no appreciable cap space (see below) and you wouldn't have gotten your new draft pick much playing time because your positions are full of guys that still didn't help you make the playoffs. At best you've earned yourself bragging rights over the Hawks and a lower draft pick.

Salary Cap Figures
Likely 2006-07 Salary Cap=$49.5 million
Keeping Zach and Darius but NOT re-signing Joel, NOT picking up options on Skinner or Outlaw, and not counting this year's draft pick, Blazers salaries for 2006-07=$44.8 million
Trading Zach and Darius for an expiring contract but KEEPING Joel, picking up Skinner's and Outlaw's options, not counting this year's draft pick, Blazers salaries for 2006-07=$31.3 million

Obviously if you'd like to re-sign Joel, keep Skinner, extend Outlaw, or re-sign Blake (whose contract expires after next year) and Zach and Darius were still here, you'd then be capped up. With a trade, however, you could do ALL of those things and still have $15 million in cap space left over. That is quite a difference!

Some would suggest partial measures, like trading Darius or Darius and Theo. The former doesn't clear much cap space (or any if you re-sign Joel) and the latter won't be enough talent to buy a $16 million expiring contract, so you've taken on more long-term troubles in return. Again, the best you could hope for from such a course is mediocrity. And as Zach's contract numbers increase, it will become harder and harder to deal him. It's already near impossible straight up (see post below) and eventually you're going to have to offer folks you don't want to lose alongside him to get the deal done. Better to bite the bullet now and just do it.

--Dave blazersub@yahoo.com

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