Who Portland Should Target in Free Agency
This summer could make or break it for the Portland Trail Blazers as the fans and organization can capitalize on being able to spend anywhere between $19.9 million to $25.9 million on a wide variety of free agents. The Blazers are looking to move forward after a highly disappointing 2011-12 season that saw the loss of Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, firing of Nate McMillan and a mid-season collapse that ended three-straight playoff appearances. Still to this point without a legit General Manager or coach, the Blazers do have two first round picks that they acquired from trading Gerald Wallace and can do some serious damage by loading up during the draft and luring some free agents. Portland hasn’t been the number one destination considering the rain; questionable front office and more rain, but the Blazers will have the space and money to bring a big name to go alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum and bring them back into playoff contention.
The major concern for the Blazers are at point and center. The usual. Not a lot of luck in those departments over the past years as we have gone through good-but-not-good-enough point guards in Steve Blake, Andre Miller and Raymond Felton. Portland has had worse luck with centers and everyone knows that and no need to go further. Former number one pick Greg Oden of the 2007 Draft out of Ohio State, played only 82 games in five total seasons. Portland finally cut ties with him this season and the worst thing that could happen would be Oden to become fully healthy and start becoming the beast we all thought he would be. If he joined the Los Angeles Lakers it would even add more salt to the wound.
There are a few big names on the list this year of available free agents and a couple All-Stars that Portland will no doubt have their eyes on but will have a tough go at being number one destination. Here are just a few that they should really consider and make a few phone calls:
One of the names that I would absolutely love to see rock the black and red, Rondo at the point would help us immediately and as to compliment Aldridge, the Blazers become a serious threat. Although Rondo isn’t exactly a free agent, he has been linked to Rip City as a possible destination at the trade deadline plenty of times before. Boston’s “Big Three” of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are getting older and the championship window is all but closed. Boston would look to get something good in exchange for Rondo, who is in my mind next to Derrick Rose as the best point guards in the league. Rondo finished the 2011-12 season with an average of 10.8 points, 11.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 36 minutes of playing time. Better yet, Rondo closed out the regular season with 24 consecutive games of 10 or more assists and is a pure “pass first” player. It is the longest streak the NBA has seen since John Stockton logged a streak of 29 games back in 1992 and is a Celtics record. At only 26-years old, he still has a few years still in him and has playoff and championship experience to help lead the Blazers.
Another point guard that Portland wouldn’t mind seeing suit up is Mr. Steve Nash, the guru of point guards and distributing. As an unrestricted free agent, Nash might have played his final season in Phoenix and could go on his way to finally try to win a ring before he gets any older and as the Suns look to rebuild after eight straight seasons of Nash running the show. And that’s the problem, Nash is 38-years old. We’d be lucky to get a season or two before he would call it quits, but like Rondo, he’s a perfect addition to make Aldridge even better down low and can manage some scoring himself. He’s coming off one of his better performances even though he was an afterthought in recent years, averaging 12.5 points and 10.7 rebounds in 31 minutes with not much fanfare. Nash is a straight up veteran and his leadership would do wonders. It’s a long shot for Portland but they have been linked as a landing spot for the last couple of seasons. He would be a valuable piece for any team interested and will be very popular once July 1 hits.
Another one of those “maybes” for Portland, we would love to have the three-time All Star but it’ll be very difficult to snatch him up from another attractive suitors. As it’s now quite possible he’ll book it from Brooklyn, Portland will be in the mix along with other high-caliber teams including his hometown Dallas. As with Rondo and Nash, he gives the point position a tremendous boost by helping Aldridge and doing some scoring himself as he was practically the leading scorer for the Nets with 21 points and 8.7 assists in 36 minutes. The Blazers have the money to easily snatch Williams and the large contract that comes with him as he will be hungry to get back into the playoffs and contend for a championship. If Williams is open to joining the Blazers and coming back to the Northwest Division after playing in Utah for so many years will be interesting. It’ll surely be difficult for anyone of these point guards land in Portland, it’ll be a great job in part of the front office and anyone will do better than their current position.
Roy Hibbert’s recent dominant play against the Orlando Magic in this years playoffs are only causing his stock to rise. Only 25-years old and standing at 7 ft 2, Hibbert is exactly what Portland needs after Greg Oden was a serious heartbreaking bust. Hibbert was elected to his first All-Star game this season for the Indiana Pacers and will be the target of many teams looking for a big man to fill their space. Hibbert has averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, block shots and field-goal percentage this season and can easily average triple-doubles, like in Game 1 against the Magic where he recorded nine blocked shots. Because of his positive production and as Indiana advances further into the postseason, you can bet the Pacers will really want to keep Hibbert and he will have tons of phone calls asking for his services. He could be the young center that the Blazers are desperate to keep and not fall due to continuing knee surgeries. If he didn’t have much attention the last couple of years, this summer will be a new experience for him.
To help with the weak shooting guard position, Boston’s pure scorer in Ray Allen would be a nice pick-up, the NBA’s all-time leader in regular season 3-point field goals made, the Celtics wouldn’t be happy to part ways with such a fan favorite and major part of their 2008 Championship team. But as explained earlier, Boston is getting old and have tried to deal Allen to places like Memphis to get ahold of younger players. Portland might need to give up quality players such as Batum but having a scoring machine coming off the bench or in the starting lineup would be pretty sweet. His numbers have dipped since the 2007-08 season as he now averages 14.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and shooting .453 from beyond the arc in 34 minutes of play. The Blazers will be a long-shot and might not even make much of a dent to Allen’s radar, but he could come back to the Pacific Northwest and fill in for the next two-three seasons would do some wonders for a Portland team desperate for scoring.