Zach Lowe analyzes the race for the last four spots in the Western Conference Playoffs through the prism of five key matchups. Two Blazer games make the list: vs. Phoenix (4/4), and vs. Golden State (4/13). Lowe has some colorful (though fair) things to say about Portland's recent performance.
All the experts are lambasting Indiana's draft for the second straight season, and for good reason. Both years have seen them grossly over-value 4-year college players with high character and low ceilings. I was thinking that fit KP's MO with many of our picks (Babs; Pendy & Dante), and wondered whether he was calling the shots in Indy last night. According to the Indianapolis Star, Hill was Pritchard's guy.
Apparently Denver send Koufos to Memphis for Darrell Arthur & No. 55. I feel like we missed a major opportunity to snag a low-cost startable center. That's a huge coup for Memphis. *Sorry if this is old news*
Chad Ford's latest mock draft is out. McCollum is now pegged to go 7th to Sacramento. Ford also notes that the Jazz may try to trade up with the Kings to snag McCollum. Ford has Carter-Williams dropping to us at 10: "The Blazers drafted a point guard last year, but they wouldn't hesitate to do it again if Carter-Williams slides. They'd prefer McCollum or Caldwell-Pope, but Carter-Williams would do. He has great size for his position, which should allow the Blazers to play both him and Lillard on the floor together. Zeller and Steven Adams are also possibilities here."
Chad Ford just released another poll of NBA GMs and scouts asked to predict the future success of this year's draft prospects. The poll, dubbed, "Secret NBA Draft Big Board," includes feedback from 15 teams. They ranked each prospect from 0 to 10. Ford reports the high score, low, score, and average for each player, along with some commentary. I think this might be the most informative inside peek he's provided thus far. Interesting quotes in comments below.
Chad Ford just published his annual column ranking draft prospects by tier, which is always an informative read. For those not familiar, the tiers are based on polling of NBA GMs. For the first time ever, not a single player made Tier 1 (sure-fire star like Griffin, Durrant, and Davis) OR Tier 2 (potential All-Stars - last year MKG, Beal, Robinson and Barnes). This year, six guys fell in Tier 3: Bennett, Len, McLemore, Noel, Oladipo, and Porter Jr. Tier 4 is Adams, Burke, Carter Williams, KCP, McCollum, and Zeller. Ford says Tier 4 guys mid-first round guys, but in this weak draft, they'll be mid- to late-lottery picks.
According to ESPN, the Clips are looking to swap Griffin, Bledsoe, Jordan, cash, and multiple future picks in two separate deals to get Howard, Garnett, Pierce and Doc Rivers. The article doesn't lay out a concrete plan for how such a deal would be possible, but mentions attempts by LAC to land Garnett, Pierce, and Rivers for Jordan (BOS also wants Bledsoe), and Howard for Griffin and Bledsoe. They also mention efforts to acquire Afflalo for Bledsoe.
Chad Ford just posted an updated mock draft on ESPN (v4.0). He has Orlando grabbing Oladipo at 2, Burke dropping to the Kings at 7, and KCP going to the Wolves at 9. The Blazers are slated to take McCollum in front of Zeller (11), Adams (12), and Saric (13). Mitchell falls all the way to the Knicks at 24.
Chad Ford has an interesting Insider article up on Cody Zeller, comparing him to Bosh and Aldridge. The notion being that Bosh and Aldridge were 5's in college who became 4's in the NBA to better suit their style's of play, and that Zeller will excel doing the same. Ford seems to think Zeller is actually being underrated because he was miscast as a 5 at Indiana when his true talent lies at the 4 spot.
The Blazers have had their fare share of PR gaffes, but you can always count on Donald Sterling to make us look good. This story is shocking, if true. Apparently Sterling and the Clippers front office have angered Chris Paul by essentially blaming him for VDN's firing.
David Thorpe just published his take on this year's rookies. He lists Lillard among the Rookie of the Year contenders, and sets some very high expectations: "In my eyes, Lillard was the best rookie in Vegas. His talent as a floor general, as well as his ability to shoot and score, proved that you don't have to play in the ACC or Big East to become an elite player. And that's what Lillard projects to be right now. He's a slightly downgraded version of Derrick Rose, with some Chauncey Billups mixed in, who will likely start from day one and will be the favorite to win ROY since he'll have the ball in his hands a ton."
If you think Portland's ownership and front office can look dysfunctional and petty at times, just look at the Utah Jazz, who are often considered one of the most stable, well-run franchises in the NBA. We all know about the Sloan fiasco last year. Apparently Malone recently said Sloan was handcuffed by management, who chose Williams over Sloan. Malone also said he had to buy tickets to a Jazz game from a scalper. New Jazz owner, Greg Miller, has gone nuts attacking Malone. First he wrote a Dan Gilbert'esque twitter post calling Malone a liar (in regard to the ticket) issue: "Hey Karl - you're lying. You have my number. Next time you need a seat to a Jazz game, call me. You can have mine." Now Miller's written a blog post calling Malone "too unreliable and too unstable" to be an assistant coach with the team. Miller goes on to say: "The fact is Karl is still as high-maintenance as he ever was, but now he has nothing to offer to offset the grief and aggravation that comes with him." Frankly, I think it's stupid to publicly lambast one of your past employees, regardless of whether you're right or not. The fact that Malone is one of the Jazz's all-time greats makes this that much more foolish. I know we want to get the dirt on what went down with KP, Penn, and even Cho, but perhaps we should be thankful Blazers' management generally knows to stay silent when it has nothing nice to say.
ESPN's Blazers/Clippers game recap compares Griffin and Aldridge's All-Star resumes. It's description of Aldridge erroneously attributes Wes Matthews' horrible game against Sacramento to LMA: "Aldridge averages 21.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. He has emerged as the team's most productive player since three-time All-Star Brandon Roy went out in mid-December, but he had a season-low four points on 2-of-10 shooting against Sacramento."
Hollinger has a new piece out rating NBA benches. He created a new statistic that is basically a weighted average of bench production. He says it "essentially estimates the PER a team receives from its subs." Importantly, bench status is determined on a game-by-game basis The writeup doesn't address the Blazers, but a ranking of NBA benches is included. Toronto is #1 with a rating of 14.24, while New Orleans is dead last at 10.14. Portland is way down the list at 11.14. It looks like slightly more than one half of the league's teams have bench ratings in excess of 12. Unsurprisingly, there isn't a huge correlation between bench rating and team record--Miami and Boston are near the bottom of the heap, for instance. But of the western playoff contenders, five sport benches in the league's top 7 (Denver, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and L.A.). OKC is 11. Utah's bench is one spot below Portland's (injuries no doubt playing a factor for both teams), and of course, N.O. is dead last. Hollinger actually claims that bench strength explains most of the difference between New Orleans' and San Antonio's records this year. So the difference between a bench rating of 13.37 and 10.14 is sizable. I'm actually surprised the Blazers fair as well as they do, given our abysmal bench play this year. Hopefully things improve with time as the new second unit gels. It would be interesting to see how our bench rating has fared over the last four or five years. I'm sure it was fantastic in '08-'09.
I used to think Jaynes was simply a cantankerous voice of moderation, fighting our natural tendency as fans to be too high on our guys. But his latest attacks on Roy's character are just petty and inane. Check out today's post. It's nothing but illogical speculation.
Contrary to the rumors floating over the weekend, Cho says Oden won't be participating in 5v5 workouts this week. Cho says Oden is progressing well; it just sounds like the team is just being extra cautious: "'We’re going to ease him into it ... maybe do some two-on-two or three-on-three, instead of up-and down five-on-five,' Cho said. 'I’m hoping he’ll be cleared to do that in the next couple of weeks.'" "That would seem to put in doubt Oden’s availability through the preseason. Training camp opens on Sept. 27, with the first exhibition game Oct. 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers." "'We’re being cautious,' Cho said. 'The longer you wait for the bone to heal, the better.'" Some other good updates on the team in the article. It's worth a read.
Not really a rumor, just speculation: "Remember, if the Nuggets trade Melo and rebuild, there's really no point in them keeping Billups either. Could be two All-Stars on market." So the obvious question is, should the Blazers go after Billups if the Nuggets implode? Chauncy is about to turn 34, so he's basically the same age as Andre. His contract is bigger than Miller's, but like Miller's, it's only for 2 more years, and it's partially guaranteed for 2011-2012. If I recall correctly, Hollinger did a pretty compelling piece a few years back on how big PGs who can shoot age VERY well (see, e.g., Nash and to a lesser extent Kidd). So Billups might have a number of great years left in the tank. He's stayed relatively healthy over the course of his career (not Miller healthy, but good for 70+ games every year) and his statistical production remains quite steady. Billups seems like an obvious upgrade over Miller, especially in the Blazers' system, but would he be worth the price? With Miller's deal we could provide the Nuggets some financial relief, but not a ton. We obviously have a lot of young guys we can offer, but nothing amazing other than Batum. What's the most you would be willing to give up to get Billups? Joel & Miller work financially, but surely Denver wouldn't accept such a deal. Miller, Bayless and Rudy works too, but I would be surprised if that was enough for Denver either. Obviously, they would try to get Batum. I don't think I would be willing to go that far.
It's interesting to compare Oden's recovery to Blake Griffin's. Blake was hurt during the preseason last year. Most of the NBA's major prognosticators are predicting big things for Griffin this year--they're not flipping out over the speed of his recovery (unlike some folks with Oden). And yet, it sounds like he's at best a little ahead of Oden right now, which makes sense since he's had a lot longer to recover. Of course, I realize that not all kneecap injuries are the same, and Griffin's may have been worse than Oden's. From the Sporting News: "Of course, there’s still the issue of whether Griffin is completely healthy yet. Del Negro put Griffin at about 75 percent, and said the Clippers have no plans to hurry him along." "'It’s still a one-day-at-a-time process,' Del Negro said. 'The biggest thing you have to battle is Blake’s anxiety, or his excitement to get back on the court and play at full steam. He wants to play, but we have to slow him down and stick with the plan. There is plenty of time. We still have the rest of August, all of September, and then we can start getting him up to 100 percent in October. I anticipate him being ready for opening night.'"
For those who don't have Insider: Hollinger lists the Blazers as one of this summer's winners, along with Miami, Chicago, Milwaukee, Golden State (just b/c they have new owners), and San Antonio. He really liked the Webster trade and our draft, and credits the Blazers for keeping KP to run things. He likes the Matthews signing, and thinks his fit with the team is so good that it justified overpaying him. And he's a big fan of the Cho hire, and says Born and Buchanan can make up for the loss of KP's scouting eye. I don't care if the Blazers are the darlings of the national media, but it's nice to not be in their doghouse.
... along with Webster and Howard. And before you think, "Oh, that's just because it's only available in 2XL," note that Cunningham's shirt is only available in XL, but it's not on sale. I'm sure it's probably just a coincidence (his jerseys aren't slashed any more than anyone else's), but the Blazer fan base always loves a good conspiracy. I'm sure this is a sign that a CP3 trade has already been completed (*joking of course*).
ESPN is reporting that the Nuggets reached an agreement in principle Tuesday night on a five-year, $34 million contract with Al Harrington, outbidding Dallas in the process. Despite the poor early trend, it looks like the Western powers are slowly adding some nice pieces. Childress in Phoenix, Jefferson in Utah, Chandler in Dallas, and now Harrington in Denver. Obviously, Harrington won't do much to replace Martin or Andersen's defense, rebounding, thuggishness, or tattoos. But when Martin and Anderson get healthy again, he will be a very interesting addition. A lineup with Lawson/Billups, Smith, Melo, Harrington, and Nene/Anderson would be very potent... and very volatile.
Talk about adding insult to injury. You know you're hard up when you talk about replacing LeBron with Qyntel Woods: "The Cavs don't have a small forward on their roster, even though Danny Green can give them a few minutes at the position. Qyntel Woods, who last played for the Knicks in 2006-07, might be one of the best available. The 29-year-old played for Asecco Prokom Gdynia in Poland last year and was first-team all-Euro and first-team all-defense. He's a 6-8, 230-pounder who can score." Good luck with that, Cleveland.
From ESPN Insider: -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Everything is set for Chris Bosh to join LeBron James in Cleveland. Everything, that is, except Bosh's approval. "The Toronto Raptors have told the Cleveland Cavaliers they will do a sign-and-trade with them for Bosh, according to several league sources. "The exact details of the potential trade have not been solidified, but Toronto likely would get Anderson Varejao and/or J.J. Hickson, Delonte West and perhaps Anthony Parker. A draft pick could be involved as well. "Both James and Bosh are aware that such a trade is possible, and James has tried to recruit Bosh to the Cavaliers several times in the past few weeks, according to sources. "But right now, Bosh remains cold to the idea of playing in Cleveland. "The Cavaliers are hopeful that will change, because in Cleveland, Bosh can meet two of his top priorities: playing with James, and getting a six-year, $125 million contract." -------------------------------------------------------------------------- If true, that would be an amazing deal for Cleveland. Seems like somebody would offer Toronto a better deal then that.
Quick just provided the following update on MSP: the Blazers are no longer targeting a vet through the draft. They have someone they want to draft and will address vets during the summer.
At the end of the Ford/Simmons mock draft debate, Ford mentioned that Memphis and Minnesota may swap Randolph and Jefferson. Given, nothing Khan does is rational, but Randolph and Love seem even more similar and incompatible than Jefferson and Love. Update: ESPN has a full article now. The story just keeps getting better. KHAN! is apparently motivated in part by a belief that Love and Jefferson pair poorly on the defensive end. I can't wait for the presser when Kahn touts Zach as a big defensive upgrade.
Found this on ESPN Insider. Apparently Thibodeau officially declined the Hornets offer yesterday. Looks like Monty is gone. Too bad. He did a great job with some of our young guys and would have been an interesting option to replace Nate some day.
Hollinger basically echoes the popular sentiment around here. If the Blazers beat Denver on Thursday, we'll be in good shape to catch them and take the 5th spot. And he notes that we may want to remain in 6th, because he projects Dallas to take the 3rd seed.
The Tom Penn/Kevin Pritchard story sure has created a lot of drama. In our understandable quest to learn what's going on behind the Blazers' closed doors, we seem to have overlooked the importance...
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