Oh the trade possibilities we could see…
Blazers fans have gotten used to this. Since Kevin Pritchard took over the reigns as general manager six years ago, he has seen his team through some sort of draft-related trade every season. Usually it’s more than one. In 2006, it was six.
Pritchard has a history of aggressively trading up in the draft in an effort to build a deep, talented roster. He has engineered brilliant draft-day deals that have landed players such as Victor Claver and Jeff Pendergraph in 2009, Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless in 2008, Rudy Fernandez in 2007 and Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez in 2006.
If all the buzz is true, this year will be no different. Pritchard, who will reportedly be fired immediately after the draft, seems to want to go out with a bang. The Blazers hold the No. 22 and No. 44 picks in the upcoming draft, but are weighing their options in an attempt to move up. The team has reportedly been hunting for a pick in the mid first round — somewhere between No.16 and 19. They appear to be trying to move ahead of the San Antonio Spurs, who hold pick No. 20.
Portland recently signed 36-year old Marcus Camby to a contract extension worth up to $26 million over the next two seasons. The Blazers also stand to get back Joel Przybilla at some point, after he injured his knee in December and missed the rest of the season, then re-injured the same knee in March when he slipped in the shower, which required a second surgery. The oft-injured Greg Oden rounds out the trio of 7-footer centers now has in Portland.
But rumor has it that the Blazers are looking to draft yet another big.
Could this be the end of the Greg Oden era in Portland?
If the Blazers were to make Oden available in an effort to move up in the draft, guess which organization holds an interest in such a deal and a draft pick within Portland’s target range?
Of course, the Blazers would much prefer to trade Przybilla. But that might not be possible.
Przybilla is a big presence in the post at 7’1″ and 255 pounds, whose offensive limitations are somewhat mitigated by his impressive rebounding and shot-blocking capabilities. But the timetable for return from his twice-ruptured right patella tendon is still unknown, and may last into the regular season. By then he will be 31 years old, and in rapid state of decline from an athletic standpoint. And if his injuries have robbed him of his ability to jump, he may never be a meaningful contributor again.
There’s also his contract to think about. Joel has a $7,405,300 player option for next season. He is certain to pick it up (and would need to do so prior to any trade). He also has a 15% trade kicker which, by league rules, he cannot waive, effectively making his salary $8,516,095 upon a trade. That’s a steep price for a player with an unknown return date and an unknown ability to contribute at a high level when he does.
Greg Oden’s return date is equally unknown. But when and if he does, we’re not talking about Przybilla-talent anymore but rather a mammoth 22-year-old defensive presence with All-Star caliber talent who was once thought to be the next Bill Russell but with soft hands and an emerging offensive game. That makes him Portland’s most tradable frontcourt asset, even with his lofty $6.8 million expiring contract.
Could a deal with the Heat get done? How about:
Miami trades Michael Beasley and pick No. 18 to Portland in exchange for Greg Oden and pick No. 44
Is it too much for the Heat to give up? Would Portland be interested in such a trade?
Both are playing in the fourth seasons of their rookie scale contracts. Both can be restricted free agents next year.
Portland would be in a position to offer Beasley the one thing Miami simply cannot – the time and patience to develop his game. In South Florida, there were flashes of scoring brilliance. Beasley can be a savant with the basketball. But never did he deliver anything resembling sustained excellence. He’s certainly not part of the Heat future and may in the intervening weeks be traded away for nothing more than cap space and future draft considerations. A change could do him good. Beasley might flourish elsewhere under less pressure with a team not trying to reconstruct itself into a title contender.
The Blazers have wonderful and youthful options at each of the forward positions in Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, but Beasley could make for a relatively inexpensive first-off-the-bencher with an ability to carry an offense over short stretches.
The Blazers would also acquire the No. 18 pick they covet. It is unclear at this point what they’re looking to do with the pick but it is what they want. Perhaps they have identified a draft target. Perhaps they are looking to package it with their own No. 22 pick in an attempt to move up into the lottery. The possibilities seem just about endless – something that has certainly struck the fancy of Mr. Pritchard in the past.
The Heat, on the other hand, would be acquiring their long coveted dominant low post presence.
Let’s for a moment be realistic about what Oden truly is and what he isn’t. What he is, certainly, is a overpowering, albeit slightly awkward big man who can rebound the basketball and block shots with the best in the game. What he is not – yet – is a once-in-a-generation center.
At seven-feet tall and nearly 300 pounds, he is a monstrous presence under the rim who has the potential to evolve into a dominating defender if he can reduce his alarmingly high foul rate. He is able to get deep post position thanks to his sheer size and will finish whatever he gets his hands on under the basket. If the Heat is successful in its quest for Chris Bosh, that’s all they’d need him to be. Bosh is more of a perimeter-oriented, floor-spacing big. That’d make Oden a perfect fit. That’d give the Heat a perfect front line.
But for any such trade to be considered, Riley & Co. would need to gain a certain degree of comfort with Oden’s propensity for injury.
Oden’s history is long and troublesome. In the sixth grade, he had hip surgery that left his left leg longer than his right. In his senior year of high school, he had surgery to repair his right wrist. He went on to miss what would have been his rookie NBA season due to microfracture knee surgery to repair cartilage damage in his knee. Then, in his regular season debut the following year, he landed on the foot of Derek Fisher and sprained his ankle, causing him to miss six games. He returned to the court in November, and scored his first NBA points in the first quarter of a game against the Heat. Later on in the season, he and Corey Maggette banged knees. The result? A chipped kneecap. Now it’s a badly fractured left patella, when he landed without contact on his left leg, that has him out until at least July. Whether he will ever play in the NBA again, let alone for a full season, is subject to serious debate.
Still, one can’t help but think just how perfect a Bosh-Oden front-line could be. Even if it does bring you into the realm of the slightly delusional.
Such rampant speculation is just part of the fun of the next 20 days.