Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Zach v. Darius

Wow...I must admit that I am surprised by the results of yesterday's question! Conventional wisdom says if you have to trade either Zach or Darius you keep the more talented/productive guy. So I assumed that most folks would vote to jettison D. Miles and give Zach another chance. But here I read the comment this morning and it's overwhelmingly for trading Zach. (Respect to Ken and TwoDeep for providing the contrary view though.) This leaves me in a pickle because:

1. I was prepared to be all brilliant and counter-cultural and post an opinion why we should go against the grain and trade Zach, but it turns out I am neither!

2. The reasons you stated for choosing Zach were pretty comprehensive, leaving me not as much to talk about.

But hey, we'll give it a try...

My reasoning stems from the conviction that when all is said and done neither one of these players will be happy, healthy, productive members of this team in three years. If you think one or the other will make a turnaround for whatever reason then understandably your opinion will differ from mine. But if you go with my assumption (which I think is pretty solid given the evidence we've seen in the past few years) you have to ask the question, "Which one of these two will it cost less to keep?" In almost every category the answer is Darius.

The most obvious example is contractual, as was brought up in the comments. Miles' contract in its final year is only 75% of what Zach's is right now. He's probably overpaid for what he contributes, but he's hardly a cap buster. In simple dollars and cents, moving Zach frees up more space, which equals more flexibility. (Assuming we don't take on equally bad or worse contracts for either, which we can't do.)

Another theme which came through strongly in the comments was style of play. Zach both dominates and slows down the game, for better or worse. He touches the ball in at least 60-70% of the sets. The plays run for him consist of a guard standing on the perimeter waiting for him to get position and then dumping him the ball and watching him work, perhaps anticipating a return pass if there's no move for Zach. There's little movement of ball or feet. This means Zach tends to score to the exclusion of others even when he has a dominating game. And as long as he is on the court, this will continue to be true. Some wish for a return of the young, hungry, "garbage man" Zach, but why would that happen? That Zach was battling Rasheed for a spot and playing time. This Zach has it. That Zach expected no plays called for him, this Zach complains and quits when he doesn't get the ball enough. In his mind he's earned the right to be the man and he's not going to give up that spot to anybody. That's fine if the team is actually going to be built around him, but if you go with the theory that he's not going to lead this team to the promised land, it becomes a burden rather than a blessing.

One of the most persistent ideas floating around the Blazer universe is that Zach will somehow become a good second option. We've talked about this before but it's worth repeating. It's not going to happen...at least not with this team. He doesn't have the right skill set or style of play. Second options can't hold the rock as much as he does and need to do a lot more away from the ball. And as we just said, he feels like he's earned the right to be number one on this team and he will not settle for a demotion. If he were somehow traded to Miami I could see him becoming second banana because the stars there are already established, but we have no such established stars here nor any means of acquiring any save perhaps trading Zach himself. Have you ever been asked to do something at a job that you simply refused to do, to the point of being willing to quit over it, because you've been through too much at that place to ever do it? Then you get another job and they ask you to do the same thing and you go along without a peep. It's weird, but it's human nature. And that's where Zach is with the Blazers. He might be willing to be Robin to Paul Pierce's Batman, but here he's Superman or nothing.

Darius, on the other hand, has no such mindset. Neither his style of play nor his view of his own position require the action to center around him. Even though he's no more likely to be a long-term answer for this team than Zach, you can play Darius without shifting the gravity of the offense. Also Darius' offense involves a lot more cutting and movement. You don't have to be standing still to get him the ball and he doesn't usually keep it for half of the 24 second clock. As our main veteran he'd still create a ripple, but a lot less significant one than Zach. For a young team with developing players, I think you take the smaller footprint and better overall distribution.

Finally there's the practice/community character issue. Neither guy has shined in this department. But other than the racial slurs directed at Cheeks, Darius hasn't done anything that Zach hasn't also done. Walked out on the team? Both did it. Undermining authority and goldbricking in practice? Check. Disapproving comments and snide remarks in the press? Yup. And Zach has actually done more to harm his community image than the relatively quiet Darius. But the difference is, you can bench Darius for this stuff...in fact you can sit him until the end of time and it wouldn't matter than much. Not so Zach. As soon as you suspend or bench Z-Bo, the whole character and spirit of the team changes because he's your best guy. If Dallas came to down and Jason Terry was benched or Golden State visited and Mike Dunleavy Jr. was suspended it'd get a mention but it would still be basically the same game. With Dirk Nowitzki, Baron Davis, or Jason Richardson not playing the whole complexion of the game changes. And nobody could forget it because the media, commentators, and everybody would be mentioning it every five minutes. There's no way to take punative measures against Zach without also destroying the team and its atmosphere. If the Blazers do keep him, that's just something we'll have to accept. Far easier, in my opinion, to let that be somebody else's problem and deal with the relatively less controversial task of trying to keep Darius corralled.

Unless you believe that one of these guys will reform and become a superstar, when faced with the choice of trading one or the other, I think the clear choice is Zach. On the court, off the court, and on the spreadsheet it just makes more sense.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)


Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Very well stated, I think Darius is possibly salvagable, but not Zach.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Capt. Broccoli said...

But there ARE ways to motivate Z. Drafting a 4 with the number two pick, for instance.

11:51 AM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Capt, I disagree. There are things Zach simply cannot do as he simply does not have the mental capacity to process what’s required of him and then do so on the court. You can tell a player over and over and show them, but some players can “get it” and some can’t (or, won’t). That’s Zach. He’s pretty much a lost cause. What we’ve seen is all we’re going to get at this point in time.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous fatty said...

prophet you're a genius dude
i totally agree with both you
and dave,he's as big of human
feces as ha,dave you could'nt
say it any better,on miami or
dallas he's a contibutor on
this ship he's dr.smith or in
his mind superman,another j.nash
blunder,like i said dave get
ready for nyc for noah*oden era...

12:54 PM  
Blogger Matt Rognlie said...

"Assuming we don't take on equally bad or worse contracts for either, which we can't do."

Well, I wouldn't want to take equally bad contracts, but I think we may have to accept contracts that are only marginally better than our current ones. Consider a Miles for Malik Rose trade. Rose's paycheck is slightly smaller, with one year less on the contract. To me, that's more than enough to motivate a trade, assuming that New York is willing. Rose can't play anymore, but Darius's value to the Blazers is arguably negative.

Still, I agree with the notion that moving Zach is more important. Sadly, I think that many fans overestimate our position in trading him. Zach is horrendously overpaid. When you consider the economics of NBA management, it would make very little sense for any team to trade players that aren't overpaid for ones that are. Unless some other team has even more compelling circumstances motivating a trade (or is plainly stupid), I don't see any way to move Zach without getting an awful long-term contract in return.

The goal, again, should be to get marginally better. We might have to accept a terrible contract, but maybe we can find one that isn't quite as terrible as Zach's. That's why I support in principle a Kenyon Martin trade. Even though Martin is far from ideal, he's at least somewhat better than Zach in every respect: slightly smaller contract, not as much of a black hole, and not as troubled personally.

We can't hit a home run, and our franchise is in trouble if management holds out for the home run and refuses to make beneficial deals in the meantime.

3:13 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

To me, another question in this debate is, 'which player can hurt you the most?'. Zach hurts with continuous turnovers late in games when he gets the ball and is double or triple teamed and refuses to pass out. His man-to-man and team defense is quite possibly the worst of any starting PF in the NBA. He's made it pretty clear he does not want to improve in either of those areas. Miles can be lazy at times, but he can play both good offense & defense when properly motivated- which can be difficult to do at times, but still always possible.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Matt Rognlie said...

Agreed, blazer prophet. We shot ourselves in the foot by giving Zach such an enormous extension—we're in an unbelievably bad contract position right now. I really don't know what we can do. If we can pull off a Nuggets trade, then I think we absolutely should. Maybe Randolph, Outlaw and Freeland for Martin and Najera? We'd lose a lot, but I think that dumping Zach at this point is worth it.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Matt Rognlie said...

Or perhaps Randolph and Blake for Martin? That would be better from a roster balance perspective—we wouldn't have to assume further trades to redistribute depth. But I'm not sure how valuable Blake would be for Denver. He doesn't have any conventional Bird rights associated with him, although I think that they would have a slight advantage over teams trying to sign him with the midlevel exception in the same way that we had one with Przybilla (but I'm not sure).

4:11 PM  
Blogger Matt Rognlie said...

The legalese in the Collective Bargaining Agreement indicates that Blake would be in the same position Przybilla was for us, and that Denver (or any trade recipient) would inherit his "Early Veteran Qualifying Free Agent" rights. These rights don't mean much, but in a league where few teams have cap space and the mid-level exception is regularly metered out, the marginal advantage they offer (midlevel starting money but bigger raises) is a pretty big deal.

8:05 PM  
Blogger jojack said...

wow, i'm speechless. well, okay not totally speechless... but i am surprised about the collective wisdom of the blazer thoughts celebrity guest panel. i guess i'm almost alone in thinking that zach could be salvaged, that he's essentially a good kid who wants to be better, and with a change in culture could get his game back; you know, the one we all fell in love with... rebounds, putbacks, garbage points etc... maybe i'm just bitter because miles has such obvious potential to be great, and just doesn't seem to care, while zach got 20 and 10 even though he's short, fat, and slow for his position, can't jump and has t-rex arms.
in large part, though, its probably like debating which gangrenous leg to amputate first; if you don't lose them both, you're screwed in the long run.

8:44 PM  
Blogger jojack said...

btw: trading zach for kmart is like trading herpes for syphillis... you've still got nasty sores and the prom queen still won't return your calls.
how about jalen rose or mo taylors big juicy expiring contracts? ny needs post scoring like the flowers need the rain and isaiah is obviously desperate and in the advanced stages of a debilitating case up brain-sucking skull-parasites that he may be the only gm deranged enough to take both our problem children. MAKE THE CALL KEVIN PRITCHARD! MAKE THE CALL!

8:53 PM  
Blogger Scott R said...

good point JoJack. But i would trade herpes for syphillis. at least you can get some penicilin for the syphilis! Herpes is the gift that keeps on giving...LoL...

now that my (semi)comedic moment(i laughed, that's what is important) is over I would like to add that I am happy to see that Zach is actually working hard in Atlanta with Bayno and is on his way to grg's camp in Vegas. I like to see that motivation, and maybe we will see a different Zach. Maybe someone was able to get inside his head this summer and tell him to shape up because the ire is raising. I still would favor dumping Zach over Darius if having to choose between the two, but based on what i've read about Zach and his work ethic improving this summer, I am at least intrigued to see how in shape he starts this next season and if he is going to be willing to run with the rest of the team.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Matt Rognlie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Matt Rognlie said...

(previous post deleted because of a serious text transfer error)

"btw: trading zach for kmart is like trading herpes for syphillis... you've still got nasty sores and the prom queen still won't return your calls.
how about jalen rose or mo taylors big juicy expiring contracts?"

If you think that the Knicks will actually make this trade, sure. I would love nothing more than trading Zach for expiring or two-year contracts.

But this requires such fantastic stupidity on the other side's part that I can't see it happening. Sure, it might be possible with New York, a team that has duly demonstrated such fantastic stupidity in the past few years. My worry, however, is that Isiah has been reined in by management and disallowed from acquiring any more black holes with monstrous contracts. And even if he hasn't, Channing Frye - arguably the franchise's only bright spot - is slotted at PF for the forseeable future. Isiah may take Miles (that's what I'm hoping), but I cannot imagine him grabbing Zach. If he does, he'll have my vote for Dumbest Sports Executive Ever.

There is, I must say, a considerable and somewhat unfortunate naivete on the part of fans suggesting trades. Most fans are too optimistic, designing deals that are one-sided and implausible. These fans then lament management's unenviable lack of vision in failing to implement their brilliant plans, not recognizing that team executives may have little choice. This is most apparent at draft time, but it never really stops.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Jojack, you aren't alone. The main difference I see betwen the two is desire. Fire in the eyes. Zach shows it quite often, Miles never does.

Zach has some things to do and learn. Many of those same things come naturally to Miles. Zach has shown some desire to learn to do those things, Miles has shown no desire to use those things.

Personally, and for what it is worth (nothing), I'm through with Miles. I think Zach has some things he could show us.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Eli said...

I think there are options out there for trading Zach, certainly more than trading Darius (and I'm sorry but Miles for Malik Rose is just a terrible trade for the Blazers). I think it might be possible to trade for Antawn Jamison if we through in perhaps Blake and Outlaw or something.

What we have in Randolph is one of maybe 5 or 6 legitimate inside presences in the league. Put Zach with an excellent outside shooter like Ray Allen or Peja Stojacovic and he could be very impressive.

Then there are multiteam trades, a number of which could be achieved with Randolph.

The important thing at this point is that we get rid of Zach though. We have plenty of people that could fill his shoes with a little less scoring and we've got Aldrige who will need a lot of playing time in order to improve.

9:55 AM  
Blogger BlazerBandit said...

Hey Dave, have you considered injuries in any of this discussion? Both have had knee surgery in the past year, but Randolph seems to be doing better. Darius could hardly move or rotate becasue his knees were so bad. Does this make any difference in which of these guys to keep?

8:34 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Bandit...it's probably a wash as far as that goes. I guess the assumption that both will recover adequately is built into the argument. If one or the other doesn't the whole question is moot because nobody would trade for them if they can't pass a physical.

A lot is being said about each guy's knee problems but I'm not firmly convinced that knees are at the root of the problem in either case. The injuries contributed to disappointing seasons to be sure, but both guys seemed to hustle decently when there were shots involved last year but looked distinctly lame when called upon to help on defense (or apparently run drills in practice).


12:31 AM  
Blogger jojack said...

yo matt, ease up. i wasn't suggesting we trade miles and zach for jalen rose and mo taylor straight up, and in fact i don't even know if the salaries work. i was simply throwing ny into the mix and mentioning a couple of big expiring contracts. spare me your naivete sermon, i think i follow the league as closely as anyone and have a pretty good grasp of realistic value. my overriding point is this: the best you can hope for with either of these guys is to get a big expiring contract in return. quite frankly, it's naive to think we would get anything better. ny has a plethora of expiring contracts, and thomas has been proving right up to the draft that he is, indeed, the worst gm in the history of modern sports. plus, he's on the hot seat, with one year left of total authority. i don't think dolan would rein him in now, why not just fire him? i also like dave's idea of zach for juwan howard or c-webb. rent a journeymen on the downside for a couple of years, let your young bigs develop, then reap the savings, or use the expiring contracts as trading chips.

4:11 PM  
Blogger jojack said...

ha ha, i spend way too much time on this! i did a little research over at hoopshype. rose makes 17M zach makes 12M brian skinner makes 5.5M expiring this year. i know they have channing frye, but he's kind of a 4/5 tweener (he played 5 in college) and jerome james and eddy curry has absolutely stunk. they would get 5.5 mil in salary relief and a promising young power forward for essentially a contract spot. at least thats how we sell it to zeke. or miles and dickau for mo taylor, a deal even more one sided for them in talent terms. mo taylor is terrible. but his contract is expiring, and we could get rid of one leg. plus, his old buddy Q is there. also bear in mind we have some other chips to sweeten the pot (blake, skinner's expiring contract, derek anderson's expiring contract, dixon's short, smallish contract, travis outlaw's potential and favorable contract etc...) i loved khryapa, but understood when they had to throw him in to get what they wanted.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I agree with Matt's assertion that most fans overvalue their own players in trade talks. In fact I wrote a post on that last month. I also agree that the Knicks might be a possible trade partner because the pressure's on Isiah. I actually proposed a Miles/Zach for Rose deal back in April. I'd take the cap savings in a heartbeat. (And Rose would make a fine veteran SF for a year.) Unfortunately I'm becoming more convinced that the free lunch line has closed in NY, at least temporarily. It's like being the 20th in line for the complimentary gifts and they close the window at 19. We'll see what happens at the trade deadline though.

I don't think Matt was talking about you specifically Joe, just making a general point. I think your assertions are both compatible.


11:43 AM  

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