David’s Master Plan to Fix the Blazers
Alright, it’s my turn to try my hand at this. I have been mulling this over since mid-way through last season, so hopefully you find these words of “wisdom” wise enough. Editor’s benefits allow me to go last (take that, Jason and Kevin!) and here’s my take:
Blazers guaranteed salary: $43 million
NBA Salary Cap: $58.5 million
Blazers’ Cap Space: $15.5 million
The Blazers have five free agents on their roster as we speak: J.J. Hickson, Eric Maynor, Luke Babbitt, Elliot Williams, and Nolan Smith. The only one I want to retain is Eric Maynor. He’s a starter on weaker teams and a solid backup in Portland, with a qualifying offer of just over $3 million; worth it. Hickson is too expensive, Babbitt is too awful, Williams is too injury prone, and Smith has already agreed to leave. Sasha Pavlovic is still under contract, though not guaranteed, so I’d waive him in a heartbeat as well. It’s time for a re-haul.
Remaining cap space: $12.2 million
Now the fun part; the NBA draft. This draft class has been condemned as “weak” by many, but that is not really the case. The top is not up to standards, but 5-15 is all very tight and fairly deep. The Blazers hold the 10th, 39th, 40th, and 45th pick in this year’s draft. With regards to the 10th pick, I have to agree with Jason. The Blazers must consider UCLA small forward, Shabazz Muhammad. His off-the-ball instincts are top notch and he could easily lead the bench in scoring (something the Blazer bench lacked horrifically last season).
As for the 2nd rounders, Portland needs bigs like a fish needs water. As GM, I’m drafting Colorado State center Colton Iverson at 39, NC State point guard Lorenzo Brown at 40 (backup PG injury insurance), and Oregon power forward Arsalan Kazemi at 45. Second-rounders are rarely difference makers, but at 7’0”, 263 lbs, Iverson is one hell of a warm body. Plus, having watched the underrated Ducks advance through March Madness like a hot knife through butter on the back of Kazemi, I have a soft spot for him.
Remaining cap space: $8.9 million
The unguaranteed nature of free agency unnerves me, but Portland should be able to reel in some mid-level talent. Since Portland is not a hot spot and can’t afford the biggest names anyway, the key is finding specialists. First things first, sign shooting guard, Tony Allen, out of Memphis. He can’t score a lick, but he’s one of the best defenders in the game (2011 2nd team, 2012 1st team, 2013 1st team). I want him coming off the bench to keep opponent scoring down while Muhammad racks up points for Portland. He’s cheap too. As a 9 season vet, he’s never earned more than $3.3 million in a given year. Projected contract: 3 year, $12 million
Remaining cap space: $5.9 million
The last piece of this puzzle is one more free agent. If I’m the GM, I sign Miami center, Chris Andersen. The Heat were only able to afford him last season by claiming him off waivers and will likely be unable to offer him a deal big enough to keep him in free agency despite being the defending champs. He was the best bench center in the league last season and brings the defensive mind-set Portland is looking for while allowing Meyers Leonard to develop as a starter (something the Blazers need to commit to). His previous salary in Denver ($4.5 M) is a more accurate gauge of his value, so the Blazers should offer him a 1 year $5 million deal to see how he fits.
Remaining cap space: $0.9 million
Blazers’ 2013-2014 Depth Chart:
(PG): Damian Lillard | Eric Maynor | Lorenzo Brown
(SG): Wesley Matthews | Tony Allen | Will Barton
(SF): Nicolas Batum | Shabazz Muhammad | Victor Claver
(PF): LaMarcus Aldridge | Arsalan Kazemi | Joel Freeland
(C): Meyers Leonard | Chris Andersen | Colton Iverson