Something new to worry about today. The Oregonian is saying the Portland Trail Blazers have an interest in Nikola Pekovic. Okay, that’s not new or shocking news. It is, however, the first confirmation of the Chicken Little nightmares that Paul Allen and his vindictive self will be laying a fat offer out for Pek to sign and the Wolves to match.
Which they will. So. No real shocking news. Like I said.
The doubt expressed in the worthiness of such a large offer to Pek is a bit encouraging to me. Hopefully that view spreads.
Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey remained committed to his unofficial vow of silence on Monday. The NBA Draft is Thursday, and Olshey and coach Terry Stotts haven’t publicly commented since May 30, the first day of pre-draft workouts. But we’re getting a better idea of what the organization thinks of itself with every day.
If I’m reading them right, I don’t agree with what they see.
A league source said on Monday that the Blazers, who hold the No. 10 pick in the first round, have interest in two restricted free-agent centers: San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter and Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic. This comes after a trade-proposal report that would have the Blazers trading their lottery pick to Phoenix for center Marcin Gortat.
What the Blazers are trying to tell us is this: We don’t think we need a star. We need depth. And even as I think Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are good NBA players, what the Blazers need is to add a star that would push one of those starters to the second unit. Do that, and you aren’t just a bubble team happy to dream about the playoffs, but an organization seizing its destiny.
The Clippers traded for coach Doc Rivers. They’re in disarray, but obviously want to retain Chris Paul, and to assemble a championship-caliber roster. Boston is starting over, albeit ambitiously. There’s going to be a flurry of suitors for Dwight Howard. Also, Denver’s Andre Iguodala appears set to opt out of his contract. You don’t have to look hard to find NBA teams, even ones owned by Donald Sterling, interested in trying to do something big. Portland’s advantage is that it has a very promising nucleus even as it’s drafts 10th, and needs to make only one major move along with maybe two minor ones to take a giant leap forward.
In that, I agree, Portland needs depth. But also, first it needs one big splash.
Stotts spent a good deal of time last season explaining why he was playing Damian Lillard, Batum, Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge so many minutes. Truth is: He had nobody else. And rookie center Meyers Leonard said this summer he believes he needs a journeyman center he can learn from. Truth is: He’s right. But I cringe at the thought of Portland tying up some of its $11.6 million in cap room chasing a restricted free agent such as Splitter/Pekovic instead of dreaming bigger and more creatively. Also, trading the No. 10 pick is absurd — unless it brings a starter in return.
Olshey is in a tricky spot. I think he’s going to have a tough time selling owner Paul Allen on any trade that gives up the team’s lottery pick. Allen pays his scouts well and knows there are talented players in every draft. He’s going to want to pluck another Lillard in the lottery. At the same time, Olshey knows Portland has had a difficult time with free agency in recent summers (See: Roy Hibbert, Hedo Turkoglu, Paul Millsap, Trenton Hassell, etc.).
It might feel safer to aim lower, and attempt to reinforce the roster by adding an overpaid Splitter or Pekovic, but if successful (and that’s a capital IF) I’m not sure those moves do anything more than make the Blazers playoff cannon fodder, best case. Worst case, they’re back in the lottery, overpaid for a free agent and have blown a chance to do something big.
Olshey’s silence is the most promising news. He’s staying quiet. Stotts too. I like that approach, strategically. And secretly, I’m hoping all these small moves we’re hearing about aren’t their grand plan, but the window dressing part. Add Splitter, sure. But only after pulling off a bigger deal for a star who makes either Matthews or Batum your sixth man.
You know, let the personnel moves do the talking.