Three weeks, two days, and 25 bottles of wine later, your fearless moderator is back. I can’t tell you where I’ve been and I can’t tell you where I’m goin’, but I’ve returned to the United States of America and I’m ready to talk some NBA basketball. Thanks to Lochi for once again holding down the fort during my extended absence.
Lots to talk about regarding the Blazers, and lets tackle them one by one.
1. The GM News
As you all know, Kevin Pritchard was promoted to GM of the Blazers, and frankly I couldn’t be happier about this move. This may or may not be a good sign — as you may recall, I was not happy with the selection of Nate McMillan as head coach, and that seems to have worked out pretty well — but nonetheless its something to be excited about. The endorsement of Marc Iavaroni two years ago as the new head coach (astounding that he hasn’t gotten a HC job yet, by the way) was based on what he might do, whereas the joy regarding Pritchard is based on what he has done. We’ll get to the jewel in Kevvy’s crown in a moment, but lets talk about some of his other minor achievements:
- The signing of Steve Blake. Say what you will about Steve, he worked out very well for Portland, providing a very economical digestion of much needed minutes at the point guard and netting us what should have been some very good trade bait in Jamaal Magloire.
- The signing of Ime Udoka. Who knew that a player with limited NBA experience in his late-20’s could fill the void at SF that Portland so desperately needed with the absence of Miles? Udoka has been a bit of a phenom. Granted, he probably shouldn’t be playing as much as he has this year for Portland but a great find on Pritchard’s part.
- And, of course, the 2006 draft. It’s clear that Portland came out of a relatively weak draft class with arguably the two best players in Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, and stole Sergio Rodriguez out from under the league’s nose by simply purchasing Phoenix’s draft pick and snagging him.
Pritchard is a great selection. He’s clearly dedicated to the team, clearly a hard worker and most importantly he’s a creative thinker in many ways. His state of the art statistics models are becoming infamous and he clearly has the ability to evaluate talent and negotiate with other teams. I believe that had Steve Patterson not held him back from talking to other teams prior to this year’s trading deadline, Jamaal Magloire would have netted us some sort of additional asset that would last us past this season. But I don’t think we’ll see anymore bygones like that, and all hail King Pritchard.
2. The Draft
Barring a lottery miracle, it appears that Portland will end up in the 8-10 range come draft day. Lets review a few things before we identify potential picks.
First off, the team is set at PG, SG, and PF for several years, which leaves SF and C as the two potential options. I do not think the team views Darius Miles as a solution at SF, so that’s still a question mark, and Joel Pryzbilla — as much as I love the guy — looks as if he won’t be a long term solution at Center.
Here’s the bigger question: With all of Portland’s youth, and with Kevin Pritchard around, the chances that the pick could be dealt in exchange for an established star player at one of these positions seems very high. Obviously, Portland would need to include a salary back, but they’ve got a big salaries that are expendable. For example, would it really surprise you to see Portland send Raef LaFrentz and the #7 pick to Seattle in a sign-and-trade for Rashard Lewis? Now, I don’t think that particular deal will happen, but you catch my drift here.
3. Random Tidbits
- I need to make something clear: I don’t care much for awards. Coach of the year, MVP, etc, its all a bunch of crap to me. But check out the list of past Rookie of the Year candidates. The ROY award has a pretty darn good history of outstanding players — the last ten winners are Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor, LeBron James, Amare Stoudamire, Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Elton Brand, Vince Carter, Tim Duncan, and Allen Iverson. (the one notable exception: Damon Stoudamire, and you can see the full list of winners here.)
- The Philadelphia 76ers with Iverson were something like 5-14. Since they traded him, they’ve gone 24-25. How is nobody else talking about this?
- Speaking of Eastern teams that are exceeding expectations, the Toronto Raptors are 28-13 in their last 41 games. And in case you’re curious, Juan Dixon is averaging 12 points and 27 minutes per game for them. Fred Jones? 3.4 points in 15 minutes per game for Portland. Is there a GM in the league that you’d rather have running your team than Bryan Colangelo right now? Alright, let’s move along.
And finally, we’ve got a minor announcement regarding the blog. We’ll be doing some stuff in partnership with the guys at Protrade.com, which is a website where people can buy and sell and trade professional sports teams and players as if they were stocks, which is kind of cool. You can get Blazer information anywhere — “but you come to BlazersBlog for the attitude and the atmosphere” — and the investment advice!