The silver lining of missing the playoffs is being able to sit back and watch how the league’s most successful teams operate. Now that the best of the best have been whittled down to two, I would like to point out one commonality that has been pivotal to the success of both teams; a strong 3-point shooting bench.
To say the Miami Heat excel in this regard is an understatement. They possess arguably the best 3-point shooter of all time in Ray Allen, as well as the underrated X-factor Mike Miller. Not to mention a proficient Shane Battier. These are the kind of players the Blazers need in their secondary.
For the sake of realistic emulation, let’s ignore Ray Allen. Saying the Blazers could adjust their fortune by simply adding someone on par with the greatest of all time is true, but fantasy. Instead, let’s examine Mike Miller.
A 13 year vet, Miller is paid $6.8 million to come off the bench and drain threes. Now, that’s certainly more than the Blazers would like to pay a backup wing, but he exemplifies Portland’s need. The Blazers need an experienced bench guy that can fly under the radar, spot up in the corner, and make his shots.
The Spurs are no slouch when it comes to bench range either. Matt Bonner AKA ‘Red Mamba’ is one of the most efficient 3 point shooters in the league, and combo-guard Gary Neal is usually prepared to lend a hot hand (6/10 tonight, in fact).
Neal is still in his rookie contract, so like Ray Allen, let’s set aside his contributions to see what the Blazers can more realistically expect to pursue. Portland is unlikely to find a quality 3-point shooter for sub-$1 million. Which brings us to Matt Bonner.
Bonner is being paid $3.6 million this season as a 9 year vet. That is well within the Blazers’ price range. I would like to stress that I am not proposing that the Blazers pursue Bonner (or Miller for that matter), but these are the kinds of guys they need; players that can bring a spark off the bench to the tune of >37.5% 3-point shooting.
Free agency is coming up and Portland would be wise to take notes on the finals as they start window shopping. The Blazers had no shooting guard or small forward in the secondary shoot above 35% from the arc last season. Luke Babbitt led in this category, with a mediocre 34.8%. Since he was their best option (shudder) and is unlikely to return next year, the Blazers will have a bench role to fill.
These are the free agents I would like to see the Blazers consider when looking for a 3-point threat off the bench:
J.J. Redick (SG)
[Current salary: $6.2 million, STATUS – Unrestricted]
Redick has always been a solid 3 point shooter, though he struggled to find his shot after a mid-season trade sent him to a new system in Milwaukee. Of my preferred free agents, he is the most expensive and struggled the most from the arc this season, but he’s certainly worth a look.
3P% – 2013: 31.8%, Career: 39.0% (7 seasons)
Kyle Korver (SG/SF)
[Current salary: $5.0 million, STATUS – Unrestricted]
Korver got his first real taste of starting this year for Atlanta, but has spent most of his career as a bench spark. He has one of the prettiest jump shots you’ll find and is a terrific spot up shooter. Portland would probably get the most for their money with Kyle Korver.
3P% – 2013: 45.7%, Career: 41.9% (10 seasons)
Mike Dunleavy (SG/SF)
[Current salary: $3.75 million, STATUS – Unrestricted]
Son of former Blazer coach of the same name, Mike Dunleavy Jr. is not a flashy guy. However, he is respectable from beyond the arc. Like Redick, Dunleavy came off the Milwaukee bench last season, but did so more successfully as a 3-point shooter. He’s cheaper too, though not as talented overall.
3P% – 2013: 42.8%, Career: 37.2% (11 seasons)
Marco Belinelli (SG)
[Current salary: $1.96 million, STATUS – Unrestricted]
Possibly the cheapest option, I believe Belinelli to be the Blazers’ best in free agency if they hope to save money for more players. Belinelli was an unbelievable scrapper for the injury riddled Bulls all season, and is a decent scorer to boot. I would like to see him put on the red and black in a new city.
3P% – 2013: 35.7%, Career: 38.7% (6 seasons)
Any of these guys would provide marked improvement to the Blazers’ deep game. A team can’t survive without a capable bench, and when they are not a 3-point threat, other teams can sag on defense to prevent all kinds of scoring. Just one guy off the bench to help spread the defense would make a tremendous difference. We could actually see Portland punish opponents for lazy D when the starters are resting if they make the right additions.