What Marcus Camby Can Be for Portland

Kevin Pritchard and the Blazers finally made a trade deadline deal, sending Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw along with a wad of cash to the Los Angeles Clippers for former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby.

On the surface, there’s not much to analyze about the move. Both Blake and Outlaw had expiring contracts and had very little chance of re-signing in the offseason given the money they would want and the minutes the Blazers would offer. That left the Blazers with a single asset that was their combined contracts, the same sort of asset they had last February with Raef LaFrentz’ expiring deal. It was use them or lose them, and losing them would be a monumental waste in the current NBA landscape.

When the Blazers let LaFrentz’ deal run out, they knew they would have cap space coming to them in the summer, so you can say that asset turned into Andre Miller after the metamorphic stages of Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap. The Blazers weren’t getting cap space this summer with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge’s extensions kicking into high gear, so neither Camby nor the two players sent south were going to count for much of anything come June and July.

So what did that leave the Blazers with? A summer girlfriend — the sort you hook up with as school is ending and begin dating with a set expiration date as you leave for college — and a very attractive one at that. Camby won the DPoY award after the 2006-07 season, and his advanced numbers are right in line with that and all his other years.

2009-10: PER 18.5, Effective FG% .469, ORB% 12.2, DRB% 33.1, TRB% 22.6, Assist % 4.7, Block % 4.7
Career Numbers: PER 18.2, eFG% .471, ORB% 10.1, DRB% 27.1, TRB% 18.6, Assist % 10.0, Block % 6.2

Basically Portland is getting a 35-year old center that hasn’t seen much decline at all in his game, in fact putting up a career-best in total rebounding percentage and leading the league in that category and offensive rebounding percentage. His shotblocking may have declined a little since his time in Denver, but he is still an exponential upgrade in that aspect over what Juwan Howard was offering.

Better yet, the transition and adjust phase should be short. Camby played three and a half seasons with current Portland starting point guard Andre Miller and was on the receiving end of many a Miller lob during those years. Camby has never been a high usage player but he can step out and hit a jumper — which he’ll have to take a number of — and was an underrated passer during his time in Denver. He’ll draw more attention away from Aldridge than Howard or the rookies did and there’s a possibility of some high-low or at least high-mid action between him and LaMarcus.

Defensively, the glove fits. The Blazers have allowed a huge number of points in the paint since Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden went down, effectively becoming an offensive team capable of building but not holding double-digit leads. Camby changes that. He is an excellent weak-side defender, something the Blazers have not always done well this year, and can defend the pick-and-roll very well when he wants to.

Again, none of it requires deep, philosophical thinking. When Miller came to town, everyone had their questions about fitting the talent and lack-of-shooting into a stylistically different backcourt. Unless attitude becomes an issue — and I’m guessing it will not — there are few if any of those questions.

Because of that, it’s very difficult to find anything wrong with this deal unless you had a strong connection with Blake considering Outlaw’s health status. Sure, there were other big men rumored to be available, all with their differences — Erick Dampier’s contract was a better asset, pre-trade Brendan Haywood was younger, Tyrus Thomas offered upside and potential for a long-term relationship — but in terms of the players Portland would be getting for the next 20-plus games, there was no better option.

The trade may or may not signal a smaller philosophical shift for Portland. In the past Kevin Pritchard may have been publicly content to “let the cake bake”, but that was with all the young players under contract. So, part of you wants to think that he is abandoning previous plans to enter the proverbial win-now phase, but, with what he had to give up — meaning none of the larger assets — in order to help ensure some added playoff experience for the unaltered core group, Pritchard just properly evaluated his assets and used his “Get a free center” card.

Any further analysis can essentially be reduced to short blurbs. Right move, right time. No risk offers medium reward. The Clippers are uber cheap. And so forth. But really all it was is the Blazers finding a taker for an offer I’m sure they discussed with many teams and somehow wound up with the best possible 2010 solution without giving much of anything or taking back bad contracts. As anyone who has ever been in a summer relationship knows, someone tends to get burned and Blazer fans might have a tough time letting Camby go in a couple months, but as long as you don’t half expect Camby to throw on a leather jacket at sing “Rama Lama Dinga Dong”, everyone should come out of this the better.

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Tags: Basketball Blazers Clippers Los Angeles Marcus Camby NBA General Portland Steve Blake Trade Rumors Trades Travis Outlaw

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