Blazers Offer Oden One Year, $8.8 Million

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As has been expected, the Blazers (finally) announced that they have offered Greg Oden a one year contract worth $8.8 million, making Oden a restricted free agent. Other teams can offer Oden a larger contract, at which point the Blazers would have seven days to decide between matching the outside offer and retaining Oden or allowing him to walk. No team will be allowed to extend an offer to Oden until the lockout is over.

The Blazers also announced extending a qualifying offer of one year and $1.2 million to Patty Mills. If you are in some ways similar to me, you will laugh at Ben’s take over at Blazers Edge:

We’re now one step closer to Allen building a museum next to the Space Needle to house his Patty Mills game-worn jersey collection.

The Blazers also exercised options on Luke Babbit and Elliot Williams. If you count Williams the Blazers now have five point guards on the roster for the upcoming season. Sweet.

Drafting Nolan Smith Over Faried, Nothing Is Changing

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Last season the Blazers lacked adequate big man depth, to put it mildly. During the draft the team had the opportunity to address this gaping need; forward/rebounding machine Kenneth Faried was available. Instead, the Blazers drafted yet another backup point guard in Nolan Smith. With the draft over and the lockout likely to limit the business of off-season personnel changes, the Blazers face the possibility of another long interior disadvantaged season. The decision to draft Smith over Faried is not nearly as jarring as the firing of two competent General Managers within a single year, but is nonetheless another perplexing move by management.

During the 2011 season the Blazers lack of frontcourt depth meant 43 minutes per game for LaMarcus Aldridge. According to 82games.com, Aldridge spent 40% of the Blazers’ total minutes playing the center position. Star players are meant to be depended on, but leaning so heavily on a player can wear them down, Aldridge mentioned as much last season. If the Blazers are to ever make a deep post-season run it would be better for their star player to not be running on fumes by March.

It seems unlikely that the Blazers will be able to find adequate interior depth amongst their existing talent. That would mean 37 year old Marcus Camby, who played just 59 games last season as 36 year old Marcus Camby, staying healthy. It would mean finally finding the alchemy that heals Greg Oden permanently. If none or only one of those factors workout, the Blazers will again be asking 10-day contract type of players (to be explicit: I am lumping Jeff Pendergraph into this group) to consistently produce above their talent level.

When the Blazers were on the clock with the 21st pick, Kenneth Faried was available. Given the nice things the Blazers said about Faried before the draft (HE EVEN TIES HIS SHOES HARD!), and the opportunity to fill a gaping team need, I was confident Faried would be coming to Portland. Instead, the team chose to take another shot at upgrading the backup point guard position.

The issue is not so much about whether or not Faried turns out to be a better NBA player than Smith. It is about the team having the opportunity to fill a gaping hole in their frontcourt, in an environment that suggests such opportunities may be few in the near future, and deciding to address a need that was secondary at most. Drafting Smith over Faried seems to be the latest perplexing decision in an ongoing series of perplexing decisions by Blazers’ leadership. Worse, there is nothing that suggests the muddling will end anytime soon.

Miller Lite?

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Appropriate title—especially with all the jokes about Raymond Felton’s gut making the rounds. OK… terrible. Moving on.

Andre Miller and Felton are indeed different players, but statistically their footprints are eerily similar, have a look

Per game and per 36 minutes Felton and Miller are very comparable. So why is it, as Tonry pointed out, when you run this swap through Hollinger’s trade machine the result is the Blazers losing 8 more games? The primary reason is a difference in offensive efficiency, which is well illustrated by a glance at their offensive efficiency ratings. For his career, Miller clocks in at 110 point per 100 possessions, while Felton’s mark is less impressive 103. Furthermore, Miller also owns the superior career PER, 18, to Felton’s slightly below average mark of 14.5. I don’t know the exact mathematics behind Hollinger’s trade machine calculations, but it most likely utilizes PER, as that formula is his creation. 

Furthermore, when we see that FGA, FG, assists, steals, turnovers, fouls, and games played to an extent, are all very similar between the two. Felton surpasses Miller in three point shooting (he’s a career 33% shooter from deep), but Miller has better FG%, TS%, and a slightly better eFG%, pointing to him as the more efficient scorer. This is likely the primary reason he’s seen as more valuable by PER/trade machine.

Looking at where these two players get their shots shows that again, they are very similar for the most part. The primary difference is Miller takes slightly more shots at the rim, from 10 feet in, and from 10 to 15 feet, while Felton makes up the difference by taking more from three point territory. They take pretty much the identical number of shots from the dreaded 16 to 23 feet…

Further adding to Miller’s statistical edge is his slightly better rebounding rate (7.0% TRB to Felton’s 5.8%). This is another, more minor (I believe), component of the PER formula.

So in the end, my suspicion is the trade machines’ preference for Miller is due mostly to his significant edge over Felton in offensive efficiency, and his slight edge in rebounding.

One important thing not encompassed by the statistics however is the age differential, which is probably the primary reason the Blazers were willing to take a risk on a potentially lateral, or even slightly backwards, trade in terms of talent. 

I have not seen enough of Felton up close to have a full sense of his game, but certainly Miller’s veteran presence, consumate professionalism, and leadership will be hard to replace. Ideally Felton, with 6 years under his belt, just hitting his prime, and playing for a contract, can supply some of this. The rest perhaps coming from players already on the team (Aldridge?).

One concern I do have with the acquisition of Felton is the fact that he’s coming off his best year. Was his stint with the Knicks representative of a maturing player hitting his potential, or just an abberation/D’Antoni inflation? Typically it’s a red flag for me to see a player with average career numbers have one great year and then get overpaid. Thankfully the Blazers have another season (hopefully) to see if he can prove his recent increased level of play is for real before they have to decide about paying him.

Thanks to basketball-reference.com, hoopdata.com, and John Hollinger for the numbers.

Pick and Scroll, The Draftermath.

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Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related. 

Analysis: The Blazers reached for a guy whose ceiling appears to be as a sixth man. Nolan Smith is solid, and maybe at No. 21, solid is good enough. But I thought players like Reggie Jackson and Marshon Brooks offered more upside.

 At No. 51, they got Diebler, maybe the best spot-up shooter in the draft

“On a day when you’re gonna reach your dream, the best way to feel comfortable about your situation that night is to be in the gym,” said Smith, who declared for the draft without hiring an agent after Duke won the national championship in 2010 but pulled his name out to return to school for his senior season.

 “That’s where you’ve been your whole life up until the draft, and that’s where you should be on draft day,” he added. “I didn’t want to take a day off.”

Draft Day Analysis

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He will be missed.

Leading up to this year’s draft I wasn’t expecting much. Sure, Andre Miller had a somewhat desirable expiring contract. But the Blazers would have to get a point guard in return. As I saw it, there weren’t any better candidates on the block. Not to mention that swapping point guards wouldn’t close any of the more immediate gaps on Portland’s roster.

Indeed, the Blazers entered the 2011 NBA Draft with two glaring holes: outside shooting and backup bigs. Neither was filled, but not for lack of opportunity.

Kenneth Faried, a 6’8” power forward from Moorehead State was available when the Blazers took their place at the podium, Thursday night. Praised for his work ethic and ferocity around the basket, DraftExpress projects that, best case, Faried could be a “better rebounding Udonis Haslem.” Worst case, they said, a Lou Amundsen. Both of those comparisons—Haslem or Amundsen—are player-types the Blazers absolutely need.

Last season LaMarcus Aldridge averaged a whopping 43 minutes per game. Down the stretch he often looked exhausted and admitted as much. There were fourth quarters Aldridge simply didn’t have enough gas to take over offensively. (And for now, let’s not even get into the fact that extended minutes increase potential for injury.)

Aldridge’s front-line counterpart, Marcus Camby turned 37 this March. The 2010-11 season marked his 14th in the league. And while injuries have dogged him throughout his career, the little nagging ones seem to be affecting Camby more frequently in these twilight years. Last year he missed 31 games.

Behind Camby and Aldridge there is little else. Greg Oden isn’t a real part of this team until he proves he can stay on the court. Chris Johnson showed signs of impressive physical gifts last season, but basically has a rookie’s experience. Dante Cunningham is gone.

Yet when Draft day rolled around and the ideal pick remained available—one Blazers staff had raved about, no less—Portland went the other way. With the 21st pick they chose a point guard, Nolan Smith. He’s smart, but not a great shooter.

Faried was swept up by the Nuggets with the following pick. Twitter perked up—journalists and experts were high on Faried. Even those who weren’t in Denver professed their love, wishing their respective teams would’ve grabbed him.

There was no such love for Smith. But Portland felt they had to choose him, I believe, because of the trade they were ironing out: Andre Miller for Raymond Felton.

When the news broke I found myself feeling underwhelmed—no way the Blazers would be immediately better with Felton. Miller’s steady hand has been a huge part of Portland’s ability to stay afloat in these last few injury-plagued years. It didn’t always show up in the box scores, but Miller’s veteran experience helped the Blazers wins games.

He knew where the ball needed to go, knew when he needed to push, when to pull back, or when he could steal a quick bucket from a sleeping defender. He never took bad shots, always played hard, never got injured, and was probably the Blazers’ toughest player (save for maybe Gerald Wallace).

Andre Miller, you will be missed.

Interviewed after the trade went down, Yahoo’s Marc Spears shared my sentiments with the Blazers’ radio crew: “He’s a good point guard,” Spears said of Felton. “I just think Andre’s better.”

ESPN’s Trade Machine agreed. Led by John Hollinger’s math, it predicted the trade would cost Portland eight wins.

Now, I understand why the Blazers made the trade. Miller is 35. He’s on the way out. Felton turns 27 this weekend. He’s approaching what should be the prime of his career.

Felton is also approaching a contract year. Should he light it up and get offers from elsewhere, the Blazers could find themselves in deep trouble. If nothing else, knowing they have no second string point guards, it would figure for at least Northwest Division rivals to make toxic offers to inflate Felton’s hit on the Blazers cap.

It’s not all bad. I am excited about at the possibility of a point guard who’s adept at running the pick and roll—hopefully it’ll be able to bail out the Blazers often-sagging, late-game isolation offense. And who knows, maybe Felton’s got a lot more to show.

So all an all, while it’s no savior—and once I get over missing Andre, one of the NBA’s true characters—I’ll be able to reconcile the Felton trade.

But as for passing on Kenneth Faried, I’m at a loss. Downright stupefied. Maybe the Blazers know something about Greg Oden’s health that I don’t…

Miller, Fernandez for Felton

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The rumors are swirling and a consensus seems to be building: the Blazers will send Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez and the rights to Petteri Koponen in a three-way deal to acquire Raymond Felton from Denver. Fernandez will end up in Dallas, who will ship their 26th pick to Denver. As well as getting Felton, the Blazers receive the 57th pick in return.

Felton, a sixth-year pro, will turn 27 this weekend. He has just one year, 2011-12, remaining on his contract, for which he is due $7 million. The ESPN Trade Machine suggests the trade of Miller for Felton, straight across, will cost the Blazers eight (8) wins.

Felton’s career stats

Meet Nolan Smith (#21) & Jon Diebler (#51)

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Meet Nolan Smith, point guard from Duke, selected with the Blazers’ 21st pick.

Via Draftexpress:

Developing into one of the most well-rounded guards in college basketball, Nolan Smith has answered some questions about his NBA future by filling in for Kyrie Irving on one of the nation’s best teams, while leaving some still unanswered. Standing at 6’3”, with a solid frame and good length, whether or not teams view Smith as capable of running the point for an extended period of time may determine how high he goes on draft night.

Having played the role of a combo guard in years past, Smith has shown an improved ability to run a team this year. He has edged into the tail end of the top 25 of NCAA point guard prospects in assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted, although his other point guard metrics still look underwhelming since he can be turnover prone at times. This is a problem largely stemming from the increased offensive burden he’s asked to carry in the absence of Irving, a role which will likely decrease in the NBA.

As a passer, Smith does a good job of probing from the perimeter, recognizing cutters nicely, as well as finding spot-up shooters. While not great at getting into the lane, Smith does a good job of keeping his head up and spotting the open man when the defense rotates.

Keep reading

And Jon Diebler, selected with Portland’s 51st pick, via DraftExpress:

Ohio State shooting guard Jon Diebler has been one of the best shooters in college basketball throughout his four-year career. In fact, Salim Stoudemire is the only comparable player in our database (which dates back to 2001) to record a similarly prolific season as a shooter.

At 6’6, Diebler has good size for an NBA wing player. His skinny 200-pound frame and average wingspan, however, leave much to be desired from a physical perspective. He is just an average athlete, as well, lacking ideal quickness and explosiveness for his position.

While Diebler’s physical profile is less than impressive, he ranks as one of the most efficient players in college basketball over the last decade, ranking #1 in True Shooting Percentage and points per possession.

Diebler’s efficiency stems primarily from the role he plays and his acceptance of his function in Ohio State’s offense—for which his skill-level is perfectly tailored. Over 40% of his offensive possessions come in the form of spot-up jump shots, and Diebler converts an outrageous 50% of 7.2 three-point field goal attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted. As one would expect, his mechanics are flawless, he elevates well, and he is nearly automatic in rhythm. Furthermore, he is just as effective shooting with or without a hand in his face, thanks to his solid size and quick release.

Read on…

Live From the Practice Facility: Draft Diary 2011

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That’s right. We’re here. Seth Johnston and Dr. Tonry. Not sure yet if we’re headed for anything interesting or not… but the Big Brains are all locked up in the draft war room across the way—well sequestered from our prying eyes. Nonetheless, starting at 4:30PM check back often for… well… I guess you’ll see.

4:30 – SETH: Ken Berger reports Andre Miller for Ray Felton “could happen”, and if it does Portland (21) and Denver (22) would swap first round picks as well.

4:34 – TONRY: For a minute I was lamenting the draft’s being moved from MSG. But I feel a bit better seeing how the fans in Newark are equally rowdy. And just as likely to boo Stern and the Knicks…

4:38 – TONRY: Oh sweet Jesus ESPN, can the Draft please be the one thing that’s not about LeBron James? Stewart Scott, stop. Just stop. And Jon Barry, the door is that way, sir. Just give Jeff VanGundy your microphone and paycheck on the way out.

4:41 – SETH: Kahn on the clock. KAHN ON THE CLOCK.

4:50 – TONRY: Anyone else get the feeling like Kevin Love has a calendar that he X’s out the days remaining until free agency? Sorry Derrick Williams. Sorry Minnesota. Hey, at least you’ve got Brett Fav… Oh wait…

4:53 – TONRY: Via Twitter: “Two of the first three NBA draft picks are 19 and played total of 11 games last season, Irving and Kanter.” Free Darko!

4:57 – TONRY: Cav’s #4 pick Tristan Thompson is the first to make the press room audibly surprised.

5:03 – TONRY: Raptors pick the 6’11” Lithuanian to go alongside that other, long forgotten European big man, Andrea Bargnani. Man, Collangelo sure likes the foreign dudes… and, tell you the truth, if that team swung to an all-foreign starting five I’d have to root for ‘em…

5:06 – TONRY: I think I’ve seen Jan Vesely riding a fixed gear bike in SE Portland on his way to the food carts. OK. My jokes are horrible. Seth, you’re up. But on Vesely, gotta like this dude… makes out with a 6’7” blonde then says he’s heading for the Dunk Contest. A fine start, sir.

5:14 – SETH: It will take a Blazers trade for me to put down chili burger.

5:24 – SETH: Cho drafts Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker, two polarizing prospects. Brave.

5:25 – SETH: Kings will draft Jimmer and make Utah trade their entire roster for him.

5:30 – SETH: “A round of Sprites on me!” – Jimmer.

5:40 – TONRY: Good lord can we skip to the Blazers already? Meanwhile, Ezra makes an interesting point: “If the NBA is locked out for the entire 2011-12 season (it could happen), what will the 2012 draft order be? Exactly the same?”

5:45 – SETH: Now is when I start praying Kenneth Faried is available at #21.

5:59 – SETH: For the record, Tonry is reading the New York Times right now.

6:09 – TONRY: Shouldn’t Spike Lee have something better to do than spend an afternoon in New Jersey waiting for the Knicks to make the 17th pick? The same could be said about my own trip to Tualitin…

6:11 – SETH: More than halfway through the first round and not a lot of trades. I was promised tons and tons of trades.

6:17 – SETH: Two of my favorite players in this draft, Kenneth Faried and Donatas Montiejunas, still availabilies!

6:22 – TONRY: How cool would it be if ESPN switched over to the Knicks war room and it was James Dolan shredding a blues guitar solo and all the basketball executives were just covering their ears?

6:32 – SETH: I’m sweating for Blazers to pick Faried. Tonry is chewing his water bottle, talking about wanting to go shoot baskets.

BLAZERS SELECT NOLAN SMITH OF DUKE

6:36 – TONRY: Slight pockets of surprise in the room, but nothing especially overwhelming. Some say they called it. Seth, meanwhile, has his head in his hands.

6:42 – SETH: Nuggets pick Faried. Word is Blazers and Nuggets are talking trade. Faried could still end up in Portland.

6:51 – TONRY: It’s a bummer to see Twitter lighting up for Kenneth Faried—even folks outside of Denver are lamenting they didn’t get him. No such love for Nolan Smith.

The trade rumors are flying:

7:05 – TONRY: Rudy Fernandez now perhaps on the move in exchange for Dallas’ 26 pick? Or is that involved in the potential Denver deal? Rumors swirling now…

My $0.02

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These days, pre-Draft media coverage has become like a bucking unicorn, traipsing along the top of the Coors Light hype-train. And in most instances, the giant mythical beast doesn’t deliver. Especially when you’re team is picking outside the lottery.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some gems the Blazers could nab at 21. Keep in mind that recently Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison went at 21. Look further back and you’ll find Michael Finley. Beyond the heavy contributors, there are some solid rotational guys as well, including Brendan Haywood, Mo Peterson, Mark Bryant (!), etc.

To be fair—or perhaps a little less optimistic—the 21st pick has also turned into tons of crap. Really, picking this late in the NBA Draft is a roll of the dice—so don’t expect anything other-worldly.

Reports are swirling as to what the Blazers may do, and most of the are completey speculatory (Editor’s note: there just doesn’t seem to be a quailty veteran point guard likely to be traded for Andre Miller’s more desireable contract).

Unlikely as it to have any affect on anything what-so-ever—aside from my contriubuting to my megalomania—here’s my two cents.

The Blazers should simply take one of the following two guys. (See, I literally meant two cents…)

  1. Alec Burks – It’s simple: He’s a Buff, I’m a Buff. I don’t care if the Blazers trot out five guards next season if one of them suited up for The University of Colorado. Aside from Chauncy Billups and David Harrison (a seven-footer you may have missed who is apparently an activist for change), my fine university has not actually contributed much to the ranks of the NBA. So when one comes along, I’m firmly on the bandwagon. In all fairness though, in this draft he seems like a pretty decent prospect, meaning he’ll be long gone by the time Portland steps up to the podium. (Editor’s note: Colorado Buffalos? Are you insane? What division is that? Big Sky? Forget about it. You’re nuts.)
  2. Kenneth Faried – This is my APBR dork experimental pick. I want to find out if the one advanced metric that seems to translate into NBA success, rebounding, actually works. Well, and also, to me this guy seems like he’s got the best chance of anyone outside the top two picks of actually contributing, and possibly even being excellent at one very important aforementioned skill: rebounding. That’s not to say other good players won’t be drafted. Of course they will. My point is he seems like a fairly safe bet. Call it Mark Bryant all over again. At 21 I’m ok with that. No, in fact, I’m thrilled with it. Plus, in information the Nuggets used to pay for, but we can now read for free, Dean Oliver loves himEditor’s note:Ok, that’s more like it.

So yes, my brief opinions on the draft I will definitely not watch. There may be trades or euro-stash, there may not be firings, and there will definitely be tacky suits, but my biggest hope is the talent show does not precede a lock out. 

PS here’s a draft toy to waste your day on.