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Rose City Trade Talks

Oh boy it's that time of year again. Kevin Pritchard better get ready for hundreds of trade rumors that are soon to circle the front office. When asked how to balance the Blazers short-term and long-term goals, Pritchard responded:

"Well, there is no balancing act in that we’ve always looked at the long term. Now I’m saying that with one caveat, and that is ultimately at some point we’re going to say ‘Today is the day.’ Today is not the day. The Cleveland’s, the Dallas’s, there’s a lot of teams that are ‘We want to go for it right now.’ Boston, Lakers, they’re in that upper echelon and they’re in go-for-it mode. We will be but when? I’m not sure, but we’ll know at the time. It will be apparent."

Pritchard tried to pull off a deal last year that would have sent Sergio Rodriguez and Travis Outlaw to New York for All-Star David Lee. That trade didn't work out, but this year may be different.

Last week the Blazers were rumored to attempt a trade for Raptors superstar Chris Bosh. Those talks included dealing Possible Olympic Team candidate Lamarcus Aldridge, along with Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez. Toronto, however, wanted Pritchard to add Jerryd Bayless to the mix, which quieted the talks down. This is similar to last year, when New York wanted Pritchard to substitute Bayless for Rodriguez in the Lee package, which also caused Pritchard to halt trade talks.

Now that the talk of Bayless has stopped the Blazers-Bosh deal, another one has sprouted. Chicago has reportedly been shopping forward Tyrus Thomas ever since his outbreak with Coach Vinny Del Negro, which led to a one-game suspension Saturday. Thomas is now back in practice with the Bulls, but their front office is talking to several teams about a deal. Their main focus is landing Chicago native, Dwanye Wade. Tyrus Thomas and the Bulls first-round pick are the beginning variables to the deal, but the Heat want more than that for the player who brought them an NBA Championship.

Chicago has said they want to keep Derrick Rose, their probability of landing the 2006 NBA Finals MVP for Thomas and a package is very small. Chicago will likely next look for other teams to deal their forward from LSU, and that's where the Blazers come in.

The Bulls announced that they want expiring contracts and future draft picks. Kevin Pritchard made a deal to the Chicago Bulls, which met their needs. Rumors say that the Blazers would send two future second round picks to the Chicago Bulls along with either Travis Outlaw or Steve Blake. In return Portland would get Tyrus Thomas and point guard Kirk Hinrich. The Blazers tried to deal for Hinrich in the past, but the two teams never agree on a trade.

Pritchard offered the two picks and just one expiring contract for Chicago to choose from (Blake or Outlaw), but he may need to add some spice to the trade if he wants to be taken seriously. Or even better, trade them both. With the addition of Hinrich, the Blazers would have far too many point guards—Hinrich, Miller, Blake, Bayless and the future Patty Mills. There isn't time to play all five point guards in the McMillan rotation. Plus, Mills is the future starter for the Blazers, but that won't be recognized until Miller's contract expires—which is when he will get the minutes needed to prove himself capable of that role.

The addition of Thomas will add much needed energy to the Blazers offense. Often times Blazers players are called “soft;” and “un-aggressive.” Thomas would attack the boards and give life to the periodically lazy front-line. Hopefully Thomas can spread some pizazz to teammates. If this trade happens and he does translate some energy and competition to Lamarcus Aldridge, it could be exactly what he needs. Aldridge is one step away from an all-star caliber power forward. The only thing that separates Aldridge from Garnett and Bosh and Duncan, is that they know how to attack the boards at both ends of the floor. While Lamarcus is shooting 21-foot fade-away jumpers, Garnett, Bosh, and Duncan are “posterizing” defenders. When Lamarcus is struggling to gain rebounds, and even going over the back to gain them, others are using their size to get the boards. And it isn't Aldridge's lack of size that restrains him from competing under the rim, because he's bigger than Bosh, nearly the same size as Garnett, and certainly more athletic than Duncan.

Thomas is 15 pounds lighter than Aldridge, but three times as aggressive. Kevin Pritchard needs to make this deal for the sake of Aldridge, as well as future playoff runs. The addition of Thomas and Hinrich would revive the struggling Blazers, and add to it when Roy is completely healthy.

The losses of Blake and Outlaw aren't the end of the world either. Losing the pair of second round picks may be a bigger loss. Sure Steve Blake tore Phoenix apart in the Blazers win last Wednesday. The numbers between the two aren't that different, but they aren't for a reason. Steve Blake is splitting time with Andre Miller, because Miller has earned his spot in the Blazers rotation. Kirk Hinrich was benched for Derrick Rose, because he's Derrick Rose. Hinrich has the potential to be an NBA Finals point guard, and as much as I love Steve Blake, he doesn't have it in him.

Losing Outlaw isn't bad either. Critics who back the 25 year-old from Mississippi, have a short-term post-game memory. The majority of Outlaw's buckets come in the fourth quarter. Whether it's garbage time, or when the he's scoring from the free throw line to protect a lead, Outlaw doesn't have that game changing ability other players on the team have. Sure Martell Webster can be streaky, but his three pointer and late game free throws gave the Blazers the victory over the Spurs earlier this month. And he was the NBA's best three point shooter in the month of January—which shows he may be finally hitting the groove the Blazers hoped he would when they drafted him out of high school. Nicholas Batum's perimeter defense and shot blocking can't be matched by anyone in the west, especially Travis Outlaw. Outlaw's lazy defense and poor shot selection cost the Blazers too many games last year, which is why Pritchard features him in so many trade packages—the Thomas one namely.

Likely this trade will remain a rumor for two weeks, rather than go through, because Kevin Pritchard is a for-the-players type of guy. Don't get me wrong, I love him. Imagine having drafted Randy Foye and Tyrus Thomas instead of Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge in 2006—especially when we may end up with Thomas anyway. The Blazers would have sunk to the bottom of the west and been in future draft sweepstakes to come. However, that is not the case, and we are one trade or free agent signing away from competing for an NBA Championship.

Whether it be a trade for Chris Bosh, the package from Chicago, or an additional deal that hasn't made rumors yet, Pritchard needs to improve the team now, so chemistry can kick in come playoff time. With the style the Blazers play, it doesn't take too much time, Miller took less than half a season to appear like a normal Blazer, and conveniently less than half a season is exactly what the Blazers have left until the post-season.

As Pritchard said, he doesn't know when the right time for the Blazers to make the move to run for the title, but that it would be apparent. A trade with Chicago that would bring in Thomas and light the fire in the Blazers locker room and on the floor. This added intensity may just be what the Blazers need to make a second round and higher push in the Western Conference Playoffs. Pritchard is a smart man and I know he will continue to make smart decisions.

Up next for the Blazers is a much needed vacation over All-Star Weekend. After that, it's back home and back to work for a three game home stand, starting with the third game against the Clippers this season on Tuesday. The teams have split the first two, with the home team winning both times. Brandon Roy should be back in the line up, and that can only mean good things for Portland.

~Jacob Rogers~

02.12.10


2 comments:

  1. the blazers should play disc golf over the all star break....go team bonding!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh boy is right! Great article.

    ReplyDelete