Monday, August 07, 2006

Rules of Engagement

The Wizards have refused to match New York's offer sheet for forward Jarred Jeffries, making him a Knick. This means that maybe the rumored Miles-QRich deal won't be discussed further. (I say maybe because you never know with New York. They don't seem to have a problem duplicating positions and playing styles, as evidenced by Marbury, Crawford, and Francis on the same team.) As you know, I'm fine with that.

We're not at the point of contending yet. We're not even at the point to know when we'll be at the point of contending yet. Far from adding the final piece or two from the puzzle, we haven't even got the straight edges put together completely.

Sit down for a minute and scan the roster. What thoughts come to mind? If you're anything like me optimism and hope abound. But at the same time we don't have a lot of evidence how these players are going to turn out, let alone turn out together. Simply put, we don't know who we are yet. Look at the questions still surrounding the team even after the trades and (hopefully) improvement:

--Is Jarrett Jack a legit starter?
--Will Dickau recover from surgery and how much will he contribute?
--Can Spanish Chocolate play at all in the league?
--Is Martell a 2 or a 3 and is he capable of playing a complete game at either position?
--Will Roy's Summer League success translate into the NBA? (I'm personally pinning a lot of hopes on him but he hasn't played one game yet.)
--Will Dixon be with the team and if he has to play major minutes are we in trouble?
--Will Miles be here? What will his attitude be?
--Can Outlaw earn any minutes?
--Can Zach recover fully and produce/play like a lead player?
--Will LaFrentz play at all? If so, will his contributions be meaningful?
--Ditto Aldridge...
--Is Magloire long for the team and will his attitude be right?
--Can Joel stay out of foul trouble enough to play starter's minutes?

It's not like I had to stretch very far to come up with these questions either. These aren't exactly peripheral issues for these guys...they get brought up every time you think about them seriously. And we don't have a solid answer to any of them.

Given that it's really important to retain/regain flexibility along with talent in any move we make. In some ways we're shooting blind with every trade we pull because we're not sure what we've got, let alone what we need. Therefore I think that any player we acquire needs to fall under one of these three categories:

1. You should be able to envision his number hanging in the rafters someday. I'm not saying it has to be a lock. (We can't get that kind of guaranteed player with what we're offering.) But if you can't see any possibility that a guy could turn into a long-time, core contributor with this team, don't commit major time and money at this point. Players that fall into this category would be Jack, Webster, Aldridge, and Roy. None of them may turn out to be that good, but there's at least a chance any of them could become a lifetime Blazer because they have the skills and the attitude to do it.

OR

2. The acquisition should be a solid role-player who doesn't cost us a lot of money relative to his production. Joel Przybilla, Juan Dixon, and Steve Blake fall into this category.

OR

3. The guy's contract should be expiring or near-expiring. I would say the end of Raef LaFrentz's contract would be the outside edge for commitment if you're trading for contracts. Jamaal Magloire obviously fits this bill.

If a guy doesn't fall into any of these three categories, I'd pass. Decent but long-term expensive players, even if they contribute something we appear to need, might not help us as much right now as they'd potentially hurt us later on when we're saddled with their contracts and maybe don't need their skills or style of play. We're still playing for 2-3 years from now, and we won't know what we'll require then until a one or two of those seasons have gone by.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

11 Comments:

Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

I think the direction this team is heading is very clear. We are taking advantage to obtain our starters for the foreseeable future. Jack/Roy/Webster/Godzilla/Zach (or Aldridge). When we play better and our draft picks become lower and lower in the draft we’ll then look for sleepers and complimentary players.

Now that we have what should be our starters (unless we get another lottery pick next year and can draft someone special), it’s a matter of bringing them along for another season or two until they can start as a unit.

The other players we have may start now and/or play significant minutes as the kids are learning, but the die is cast. Overall, it’s a good direction. Zach & Godzilla will be our weakest links and may go within a couple of years, but aside from that we’re set.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

That we have a direction we're trying to go I'd agree with, that we know right now that any of those five players besides Zach are starters I wouldn't. I too think most of them will be, but I guess that's the point...we don't know yet. Jack and Roy have the fewest questions, but not everybody agrees on how good they are/will be. And if they don't turn out to be worth 38 minutes a game, then we don't really have a direction anymore. (Or at least not the same one.)

--Dave

12:26 PM  
Anonymous fatty said...

1 of the 4 between-jack,webster
or aldridge will not get a
2nd contract in portland...
roy will definately get a
d.wade type deal trust me and
as for mcmillian comment on
building this team around (als)
fatbo already the season is over
dave every ? you asked is obvious
like i told you major players
will not be role players on
this squad,magloire,miles,
and dixon if these guys are
not getting 27-32 min a night
they're already lost,if miles
is givin the sf spot outlaw
and webster lose intrest so
these ?'s the awnser is obvious
and believe or not pricthard
is doing a great job because
he sees the end of the rainbow
like i do noah,oden,hansborough
will do the trick.....
and a starting unit of the
following-jack,roy,webster,noah
and aldridge in 07 boy what a
lineup of the future in portland
or elsewhere.......

12:54 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Fatty makes a very astute point. One of my concerns is when contracts come due for Roy, Jack, Aldridge & Webster. If we assume they all more or less pan out, along with Zach’s current contract, we’ll have over $60,000,000 tied up in those five all alone. Add to that 7-9 other players and we will easily top $100,000,000. Scary thought.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

PA would probably do that again if it meant making a serious run. My concern would be what happens if that scenario comes true and we are still only a B+/A- type team? As New York has shown, there's pretty much nowhere to go after you get that far over the cap.

However don't think it's likely that all four players will merit max-type contracts...not necessarily because they're not talented enough, but just because it's pretty hard for that many players to get the chance to show that they deserve big money on the same team. If you assume Aldridge is a center and Webster a small forward then they could all play at once, but all of them racking up max-level stats at the same time might be problematic. Plus we'll probably be able to keep the bench salaries below $40 million combined. There will always be a couple of young players and minimum-level vets making $2 million a year. But you're right, our salary cap window is going to close in a few years. I hope we'll be able to make a signing or two around the time Raef expires. This is another reason trading Randolph for cap space and eventually getting some more cost-effective stats at PF would help.

Speaking of this subject, I think it's funny how for 90% of the league the luxury tax limit has become a de facto hard cap. You hear team after team saying they won't go over the tax threshold but the cap has enough loopholes that nobody cares about it unless they're executing a trade. I wonder if that was an intended consequence, or rather if the league thought it would become so nearly universal.

--Dave

2:04 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

If the team is (or has) molded into a consistent playoff team, my thinking is you do the deals. Winning teams have a lot of varied revenue streams that losing teams do not. On the other hand, if the team is underperforming, we decide who to keep and who not to. That’s one of the good things of the rookie contract.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Ahhhh...and THIS will be the #1 thing we need to see in the next season or two...these young guys playing. They shouldn't be handed minutes on a silver platter, but on the other hand I don't think we have the luxury of not knowing much about them three years from now when their deals come up (e.g. Travis Outlaw). That's been a nasty habit in Portland. (Do we know Telfair really?) I could totally understand it when we were a playoff team, and frankly it didn't matter then because we were drafting in the lower third. But if you get lottery guys you've got to play and develop lottery guys. You can't gum the roster up too much with minute and shot-hogging vets who aren't going to be part of your long-term success, even if doing that would net another win or two here or there. I actually like the roster in that way now, other than wanting a veteran swing man at the 2-3 to lead and/or spell the young guys better than the Dixon/Miles combo. We've got Dickau at the point who knows his role and nobody in the frontcourt we'd be too unhappy about trading or sitting as Aldridge develops into our back-up (for now).

I guess stepping back from the earlier discussion for a minute I don't know if anybody knows how good these guys are going to be, but I do know we need the chance to find out.

--Dave

2:57 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

That we do. But, we have four years per player to find out. With the exception of players right out of HS or otherwise lacking in basketball skills, that may not be enough time. For this group, that should be plenty of time.

That’s why I think this next season will be a long one, but after that we should get better pretty quickly.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

That is my hope also. Best case scenario after this season. Worst case scenario maybe two years after that. Disaster scenario is that none of these guys really turn out to be much more than role players and we have to start from scratch. But I doubt that one and am not prepared to even think about it at this point. I guess even if that did happen we'd still be drafting high, so starting again wouldn't take forever. But I'm still fixated on this 2-3 year window thing and pretty hopeful that that's how it'll turn out.

--Dave

3:52 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

And THAT, Dave, is what makes this all so much fun!

4:00 PM  
Anonymous fatty said...

it all comes down to nate i
saw the hawks improved not
really on the win column but
in the most important column
experience...i guarantee you
the hawks will win between
28-34 games this year on
maturity of the young kids
see fellas the hawks realized
early that they can only go
up and slowly it's working
if nate goes with the vets
trust me this a 17-24 win team
and skinner only told the
truth i'll name the ego's
the 2 "als" patients of course
fatbo*miles the only 2 guys
getting paid so as long as
they're still in portland
a lock 17-24 wins.....
and only roy will get a d.wade
deal nobody else.....

10:02 AM  

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