My oh my, how things have changed!
Since laying out a road map for Joe Cronin to follow, some significant detours in the world that is the NBA have come to fruition. While some chess pieces have been taken off the board, others have been added.
But have no fear; the way forward for the franchise now might even be better. One team’s loss, hopefully, is the Trail Blazers’ gain!
Won’t you now please indulge me as I highlight some of the very recent and rather significant developments in the NBA, insofar as the Blazers should be concerned, that is? Our friend and ally on this perusal will be the Twitter-Sphere, more specifically @wojespn & @ShamsCharania, so that we may sift fact from fiction:
1. Michael Winger, former GM of the Clippers, agreeing to become the head basketball operations honcho for the Washington Wizards (https://twitter.com/wojespn/status/1661513923412230146)
Nearly from the moment this news broke, it fueled speculation that a fire sale in our Nation’s Capital may be imminent.
2. The Wizards are trading Bradley Beal to the Suns (https://twitter.com/ShamsCharania/status/1670529647023468545)
What was once speculative is now presumed. All signs are now pointing to the fire sale being on in Washington.
3. Draymond Green declining his player option for next season, thereby becoming an unrestricted free agent (https://twitter.com/wojespn/status/1670826194848165889)
Draymond was at the top of my list of trade targets for the Trail Blazers, but the cost-benefit analysis changes now that Green would not be on the last year of his deal.
Should the Blazers still acquire him, it would be via a sign and trade, and Draymond must know this is his last shot at getting compensated at the level he long has believed he deserves, his last shot at a maximum contract. And as great as he would probably be for the Trail Blazers, he is just not a max guy, not anymore.
Besides, I would want Green to be as motivated as ever going into next season, and he just won’t be, not after getting paid, not if he gets the monetary respect he’s long coveted in the form of a max contract. (Ask Jordan Poole how important this is to Draymond.) And as far as I’m concerned, the length of the free agent deal he signs is immaterial, as I can’t fathom him accepting anything less than three years.
Anything even approximating a 3+ year max deal for Green is just too rich for my blood, especially since Anfernee Simons’s contract [$22,321.429 this league year, $24,107,143 next; per HoopsHype.com] for me is the barometer for matching salaries in any trade for Draymond. I’m just not going to give up any more for him than Simons and maybe, with emphasis on possibly, the 23rd pick in this Thursday’s NBA draft.
So where does this leave us in Blazers Land?
Potentially In an excellent spot courtesy of the heretofore fire sale in the Wizardly World of Washington.
Unlike Draymond Green (who, in the context of a potential trade to Portland, I hoped might exercise his player option), Kristaps Porzingis may opt into the last year of his deal to better facilitate/hasten his exit from the Wizards.
Per @SamQuinnCBS, in whom I respect and trust the insight of:
“Quietly important bit of Bradley Beal fallout: what happens to Kristaps Porzingis now? I can’t imagine the Wiz want to keep him long-term. He’s coming off of a very good year. If he opts in, he definitely has some value on a one-year deal. Very few centers with his skill set.” (https://twitter.com/SamQuinnCBS/status/1670559183626698752)
If Porzingis opts in, then in my mind, he jumps to the front of the line of players the Trail Blazers should target in a trade.
Cause Evan Sidery said so, that’s why! No, not really, but I really couldn’t put it any better than he did via a recent Tweet (@esidery):
“Assuming Kristaps Porzingis soon opts in for $36 million with the Wizards, the 7’3″ stretch big could soon be a key piece added to a contender via trade.
“Last season, Porzingis quietly put together his best season ever while playing in 65 games:
23.2 points (career-high)
62.7 TS% (career-high)
3.4 VORP (career-high)
52.6% on corner threes
39.3% on catch-and-shoot threes
“Only entering his age-28 season in 2023-24, Porzingis could be worth the one-year gamble at a discounted price as Washington prepares to bottom out for their rebuild.”
Sidery’s actual Tweet (https://twitter.com/esidery/status/1670922727429898243) includes a video of Kristaps in action, so check it out and give Evan some love with a “Like” while you’re at it.
What isn’t clear, however, is the level of compensation that the Blazers would require to net Porzingis in a trade. If we are to believe everything we read within the Twitter-Verse, the 3rd overall pick most certainly will be involved (https://twitter.com/TheNBACentral/status/1670207105200971777). But let me stop you right there.
Joe, if you’re listening, “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em!“
Meaning Cronin (the aforementioned Joe) should hammer out a deal with the Wizards but don’t hurt us by parting with 3rd pick. Trading for Kristaps better positions the franchise now to chase a championship, but drafting Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller 3rd overall likely assures future Larry O’Brien Trophy contention as well.
Besides, Anfernee Simons will likely blow up as Washington’s starting PG after Chris Paul is rerouted elsewhere as part of an expanded Bradley Beal trade or is bought out, which will hurt plenty. Simons is making like a Wizard in Washington; I mean, not that I’m trying to rub this in. Adding Henderson or Miller to the trade, though, would be like adding lemon juice and salt to a festering wound.
Joe may yet have to sweeten the pot beyond just Anfernee to entice further the Wizards &/or to match better Porzingis’ salary, which I’m okay with, but the sweetening best stop well short of the 3rd pick. Please and thank you, Mr. Cronin!
With my road map for the Trail Blazers’ offseason now doubling as a chess board, all we’re talking about then is replacing one chess piece (Draymond Green) with another (Kristaps Porzingis). The strategy, however, remains the same, “Going for It” now with Damian Lillard and Porzingis as your two kings and Shaedon Sharpe and Scoot or B. Miller as your future kings.
Taking this two-fold approach dramatically improves the Blazers’ chances of bringing a 2nd championship to Rip City by giving themselves as many chances as possible to make what essentially is the equivalent of a full-court shot. Suppose this weren’t so if it wasn’t difficult. Indeed, the Trail Blazers would’ve won another championship by now.
What the ‘Great One,’ even Wayne Gretzky, once said rings especially true at this crucial juncture in the history of the Blazers franchise: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
But let’s not get this twisted, either. Placating Dame at any cost is a bad idea in limiting yourself to just one shot. I would love to have more than just one. So, let’s play the odds instead, shall we? And maybe, just maybe, we can have our cake (Lillard retires a Blazer) and eat it too (win one for Gipper Dame).