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thebac
02-10-2004, 01:15 PM
Blazers reverse field on cap strategy

A "watershed day" in Portland? That's the pronouncement from the Blazers after swapping Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person to the Hawks for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Power Forward
Portland Trail Blazers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
53 20.1 9.3 2.4 .485 .880


Watershed? Let us count the ways.

One, the move signaled the return of Paul Allen to his big-spending ways. For those prognosticators who insisted Blazers GM John Nash would only take expiring contracts for Wallace, do the math. The Blazers stood to cut $24 million in cap space this summer by letting the contracts of Wallace and Person expire. Instead they picked up Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff, who are due a combined $25 million next season. Factor in a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax hit for the Blazers, and the cost of shipping Rasheed out of town is $50 million.

That's right folks. Allen was willing to spend $50 million through next season to get rid of Wallace now. That's more than many NBA teams will spend on their entire payroll next season.

Rasheed Wallace
Small Forward
Atlanta Hawks
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
45 17.0 6.6 2.5 .442 .742


Two, all the talk out of Portland about Rasheed being a changed player? A bunch of bull. The Blazers finally were winning, and they were doing it with Wallace playing at center and Miles in the middle. Talk of a contract extension leaked to the media and glowing stories about Rasheed's maturity seem now to have been little more than negotiating tactics to get the best deal for 'Sheed. If he really had changed, as so many Blazers were saying, why not keep him and take your chances this summer. Folks don't spend $50 million to give up a guy for no reason -- not even Paul Allen.

Three, before the Blazers can credibly claim they have moved into a "new era," they better check their roster one more time. Yes, they've dumped Bonzi Wells, a repeated offender in Portland. Wallace is gone, too, which is great. But left behind are numbskulls like Ruben Patterson, Damon Stoudamire and, to a lesser extent, Zach Randolph and Qyntel Woods. While the face of the Blazers has undoubtedly changed, they still have more trouble makers on their roster than anyone else in the league. Let's not take down the Neighborhood Watch signs just yet.

Four, the trade does nothing to relieve the Blazers' long-term cap crunch. As mentioned, Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff come off the books in the summer of 2005, providing $25 million in cap space. But that assumes Portland elects not to re-sign at least one of them or give a big extension to Randolph. If the Blazers are still intent on clearing cap room, we might have to go through this whole process next year with Rahim.

Theo Ratliff
Forward-Center
Portland Trail Blazers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
53 8.3 7.2 1.0 .458 .653


Five, how about that headline on Blazers.com: "Blazers trade for two all-stars." Did anyone else do a double take at that? Who writes these things? Does the fact that Ratliff and Abdur-Rahim were all stars once (like in 1776) still qualify them to be termed an all-star? That sounds like a bit of an oversell.

Six, is any one else concerned that Portland's three best players all play the same position -- power forward? Yes, Abdur-Rahim can move to the three, though he's less effective there, and Ratliff can play some five, at least in the Eastern Conference. But the move doesn't address the team's long-term needs the way it could have if it instead had traded for Erick Dampier and Nick Van Exel. Unless the Blazers have another trick up their sleeve, they're a little log-jammed up front at the moment.

Seven -- admit it, you're surprised it took me this long to propose another trade for the Blazers. Right? Well, why settle for dumping half of the bad eggs? Is there any way Nash can now package Randolph and Stoudamire or Dale Davis and Patterson for a decent point guard and even more cap space? Before firing off those nasty e-mails, Blazers fans, lets all admit that Randolph has been fatally exposed to too much Blazer-itus. He's showing all the symptoms, and despite his great scoring and rebounding numbers, he's among the laziest defenders in the league and can't pass out of a double team. Mark some of this down to immaturity, but also realize that some guys never outgrow that. Why not trade him while he's hot? Abdur-Rahim is better at the four anyway.

Steve Francis
Point Guard
Houston Rockets
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
50 16.8 5.5 5.9 .397 .763


How do you do it? Thought you'd never ask. What about this? Why don't the Blazers get on the phone with the Rockets and 76ers and get this trade done: Portland sends Randolph, Woods and Patterson to the Rockets and Davis and Stoudamire to the 76ers. Philadelphia sends Eric Snow to Houston and Glenn Robinson and Aaron McKie to Portland. Houston sends Steve Francis and Eric Piatkowski to Portland.

This is one Francis trade that will work for the Rockets. The team has a $6.9 million trade exception that it can use to make up for the fact that it can only take back half of Francis' value in trade. Snow's salary would fit into the trade exception slot and make the trade possible under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.

Why does it work? For Portland, they would have dumped every bad guy on their roster and somehow wound up with Francis -- the perfect type of superstar they need to lead their team. They would have to swallow some bad contracts -- McKie and Robinson -- to get him, but the good news is McKie-for-Patterson really is a wash, money-wise, and Robinson comes off the books in 2005.

In Houston, Jeff Van Gundy would end the growing blood feud with Francis and get back several players who can really help him in the long run. Snow is the perfect point guard to play in Van Gundy's system, and Randolph would give the Rockets another rock-solid, low-post scoring and rebounding option. In other words, no more Kelvin Cato at the four. Money-wise, the whole thing would be a wash for the Rockets, though they might have to pay Randolph lots of money in the summer of 2005.

The Sixers move three contracts they've desperately been trying to dump and get back two solid players who happen to have contracts that expire in 2005. It would be mainly a cap move for Philadelphia, however, there's no reason the team can't play as well or better with Davis and Stoudamire in the lineup.

Around the League


Burning down Atlanta: The Hawks' motivation is pretty straightforward -- the move gives Atlanta roughly $15 million in cap space going into this summer. Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff were nice players, but everyone knew Atlanta wasn't going to win anything with either of them.
Jason Terry
Point Guard
Atlanta Hawks
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
52 15.7 4.1 5.1 .429 .820


Disregard all the rhetoric about giving Wallace a chance in Atlanta. It's a joke. The Hawks want the cap freedom, and there's no way 'Sheed will play in Atlanta next season. A sign-and-trade won't be out of the question, as capped-out teams like the Knicks, Mavericks and Rockets likely will show some interest in 'Sheed, but none of those teams have players the Hawks are after. Most likely the Hawks will just let Wallace walk and start over from scratch.

My only beef? Why not find a way to work Jason Terry into the deal? Unlike Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff, Terry has been the real troublemaker in Atlanta. Expect that sentiment to grow now that the Hawks have gone from bad to awful with an unmotivated Wallace as the only go-to guy on the roster.

The good news is that, barring a huge free-agent migration to Utah, the Hawks will be able to move Terry to the Jazz in September, a year after the Jazz signed him to an offer sheet. Terry still wants to play there, and the Jazz should have the cap room to absorb his contract and might be willing to give Atlanta a prospect back in return.


Bulls out of the running: Last week we wrote that the main trade-deadline traffic would run directly through four places -- Atlanta, Portland, Chicago and New York. The Hawks and Blazers have made their big deals. What about the Bulls and Knicks?
Jamal Crawford
Shooting Guard
Chicago Bulls
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
49 17.1 3.4 5.4 .390 .834


Bulls GM Jim Paxson told the Chicago Sun-Times that after shopping Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford around, he thinks he's going to hold onto both players, at least until the summer. Curry has been playing inspired basketball of late, and Crawford is a restricted free agent this summer.

"Eddy and Tyson aren't going anywhere," Paxson told the Sun-Times. And what about Crawford?

"I don't see us doing anything with Jamal," Paxson said. "The reality is we still have the chance to match anything he gets in the summer [as a restricted free agent]. And who knows? If he wants to be here, he has a new agent [Leon Rose], so maybe there's a way we can work something out with him anyway."

That leaves Marcus Fizer as the only Bull left on the block. Rumors that he may be going to the Clippers or the Pistons have been around for weeks, but so far nothing has happened.


Knicks staying out of trading frenzy? The two top forwards Isiah Thomas was pursuing -- Wallace and Abdur-Rahim are now off the trade block. That doesn't leave him much else to deal with. He'd love to get his hands on Erick Dampier, but he doesn't have the expiring contracts to get it done.

Thomas also appears to be unwilling to trade Kurt Thomas, the team's most moveable asset. What does that mean? All the talk about the Knicks being on the verge of another big trade seems to be mostly hot air. While anything is possible with Isiah, he's going to have a very tough time pulling off a deal if Keith Van Horn, Frank Williams and Michael Doleac are the best he can offer.


How well will Shareef fit in?

The Rasheed Wallace sweepstakes have ended, at least for the regular season, and the questions that are most prominent are where will he end up and did Portland get enough in return?
The long PR nightmare for the Blazers finally has begun to subside, somewhat, and that should make several people within the organization happy. It was important for them to get the focus away from the off-court problems and back to the team's on-court performance. Of course, they have had extremely disappointing results there, as well. You can argue the on-court failures are equally, if not more, disappointing, especially when you look at the luxury tax Paul Allen had to pay out over the past couple of years.


Abdur-RahimLet's start with what the Blazers received in the deal. In Shareef Abdur-Rahim, they get a proven 20-point scorer to go along with Zach Randolph, which replaces (statistically, at least) what Wallace was giving them. But the question is simply this -- do you win with Abdur-Rahim? I love his ability to score, but he has never had any success in terms of winning in this league, and that is a habit that can be hard to break.
The other issue is, how do he and Zach coexist, because they play the same position? Neither has a problem scoring the basketball, but their biggest weakness comes on the defensive end. Neither really defends the position -- power or small forward -- particularly well, and that is the position of strength in the Western Conference -- with C-Webb, Duncan, Garnett, Gasol and Nowitzki, to name a few.

The other area you want to see these guys have an impact is in making their teammates better. You don't measure that in terms of statistical impact, but players and coaches know you win in this league by doing the little things, making what I call winning plays. A lot of guys put up nice numbers but have no impact on the outcome of the game. They don't help their team actually win games, and some could argue that Rahim fits this category. In fairness, he has never played with a lot of talent, and since his first day in the league he has been asked to score and score some more. But now he will be surrounded by the best talent he has ever played with and will have an opportunity to shed that losing label.


RatliffThe other piece of the puzzle is Theo Ratliff. One of the best shot blockers in the league, he has had several injuries over the past few years that have limited his play, and his health is an obvious concern. He becomes even more valuable, because that is one area where Wallace was the Blazers' best player, anchoring the defensive front line. Theo has that ability but is a better shot blocker. He also gives this team some much-needed size to compete out West.
Look, the Blazers put themselves in a box and had to do something. Those two guys can play and have a huge impact. Throw in Dan Dickau, a project at the point, and you also have improved the character of this basketball team from the fans' perspective. The other factor that cannot be discounted is that they have guys who can contribute immediately and have sent a strong message to their team that they are serious about cleaning up their image and getting their fan base energized once again.

As far as Atlanta goes, this is purely a financial decision and probably a good one, long-term. When you add Terrell Brandon's cap number, along with Rasheed's and Wesley Person's, you are looking at saving in excess of $40 million next season. More importantly, you're looking at a clean slate for new ownership moving forward, which could make them a real player in free agency. It also could appeal to a guy by the name of Doc Rivers and help persuade him to come on board next year.

All in all I'd say mission accomplished by both teams, and all that remains is to see whether or not the Blazers can make the playoffs.

Peep Show

Philadelphia 76ers: Glenn Robinson is so mad about declining minutes that he's liable to keep referring to himself in the third person indefinitely. "They knew what they were getting when they acquired Glenn Robinson," Robinson said in the Philadelphia Daily News. "I'm a scorer. My strength is to score the basketball. When I first came here, the first press conference, I said I know I'm not the best defender out on the court. That's just like a...defensive player out trying to shoot threes. That's like Shaquille [O'Neal] trying to shoot threes. I do what I do. What I do, I do it well, and I know that, and I know what my weaknesses are. As a team, we've got to recognize that, recognize everybody's strengths and everybody's weaknesses. We have to play toward everybody's strengths and stay away from each other's weaknesses."

Denver Nuggets: Jon Barry just learned the hard way that the shoulder bone is connected to the rotator cuff. "It's just been one of those years," Barry said in the Denver Post after consecutive injuries to those body parts. "I really felt good about last week and the games that I played. (Strength and conditioning coach) Steve Hess and I worked really hard to get back into this. I felt strong, in great shape and ready to go. I'm just hoping for the best." He has already missed 21 games to injury this year and is scheduled for an MRI today.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Hell freezes over. Zydrunas Ilgauskas plays defense. "He's mentally focused to what the job is," head coach Paul Silas said in the Lorraine Morning News. "He's shooting his outside shot well. This thing takes time. He's playing super basketball in all phases, not just offensively. He's doing everything."

Chicago Bulls: The Chicago Bulls love Jamal Crawford. And they mean it, too. "That's where Jamal has made his biggest growth," Bulls general manager John Paxson said in the Chicago Tribune. "He's been very coachable this year. I think we've shown him from some of the things we've done earlier -- trading other scorers -- that we do value him as a certain type of player. We think he can score in the league. I'd like to think that a guy who has been here for four years has to feel like we're trying to help him as a player and put him in a position to succeed. I know he didn't feel that way at the draft last year. But what he sees now, he should be feeling that way."

Minnesota Timberwolves: Sometimes, sharpshooter Fred Hoiberg just needs a little help from his friends. "When I was Chicago and I wasn't shooting well, I was close to being found on the ceiling fan," Hoiberg said in the Pioneer Press. "It was one of those things where I let it get to me. K.G. always talks to me. I didn't have anybody in Chicago telling me to shoot the ball. When you're on a losing team, everybody tries to get their own. When your leader is like that, and your coach wants you to shoot the ball when you get open, that's a great thing. You don't get down on yourself as much as you would otherwise. And when I get an open look, I shoot with confidence; that's the big thing with me."

Poindexter Einstein
02-10-2004, 02:05 PM
Interesting article ...but the lead line ("Blazers reverse field on cap strategy") is actually nonsense IMO, because it appears to me that the Blazers were SUCCESSFUL in getting their cap number next year under tax levels, rather than unsuccessful.

Although the Blazers took back salary here, the bottom line is that - when you combine the Bonzi and Sheed trades - they are now likely to be UNDER the luxury tax level, at around 57M next year. Thus this trade did NOT cost them 50M or anywhere near that, instead it only cost them one year at 25M for two players that are arguably worth about that much (in today's inflated-salary world of the NBA). If they had merely let Sheed walk, they would have been limited to talent acquisitions of the 10-15M they would be under the cap. This way they were able to go over the cap, stay under the tax, and get proven talent for their money.

So as I see it, they accomplished all of their goals: get talent, get under the tax level, and get rid of some boneheads.

I am amazed at their ability to all of that successfully.

Max Power
02-10-2004, 11:27 PM
Originally posted by: Poindexter Einstein
Interesting article ...but the lead line ("Blazers reverse field on cap strategy") is actually nonsense IMO, because it appears to me that the Blazers were SUCCESSFUL in getting their cap number next year under tax levels, rather than unsuccessful.

Although the Blazers took back salary here, the bottom line is that - when you combine the Bonzi and Sheed trades - they are now likely to be UNDER the luxury tax level, at around 57M next year. Thus this trade did NOT cost them 50M or anywhere near that, instead it only cost them one year at 25M for two players that are arguably worth about that much (in today's inflated-salary world of the NBA). If they had merely let Sheed walk, they would have been limited to talent acquisitions of the 10-15M they would be under the cap. This way they were able to go over the cap, stay under the tax, and get proven talent for their money.

So as I see it, they accomplished all of their goals: get talent, get under the tax level, and get rid of some boneheads.

I am amazed at their ability to all of that successfully.

This was a terribly lazy job of crunching numbers at ESPN. PE is exactly right - the Blazers are not going to be paying the luxury tax.

Atlanta did great in the deal too. It really was a deal that was good for both teams.