Leading up to the trade deadline, the Blazers were relatively quiet among the rumored moves, with the possibility of moving J.J. Hickson for a draft pick the only serious option. However, minutes before the deadline, Neil Olshey completed an unexpected move, acquiring Eric Maynor from the Thunder in exchange for a trade exception and the rights to Giorgio Printezis. It’s a smart move involving virtually zero risk, which gives the Blazers more options both throughout the remainder of the 2012-13 season and this summer.
It’s no secret that the backup point-guard position has been the biggest flaw on a Blazers roster that is full of them. Ronnie Price and Nolan Smith have formed a tandem of uselessness that has not only rendered the team utterly unwatchable when Damian Lillard was off the floor, but forced Lillard to play close to the most minutes in the league as a rookie. Price was waived to make room on the roster for Maynor, and I’m hard-pressed to find anything I’ll miss about him.
Maynor has been pretty awful this season as well, falling out of the Thunder’s rotation completely and losing minutes backing up Russell Westbrook to Reggie Jackson. But Maynor is coming off a torn ACL that sidelined him most of last season, which largely explains his dropoff in production. Unlike Smith, he’s proven in the past that he’s at least capable of playing a solid backup point. In his last full season with the Thunder in 2010-11, he appeared in all 82 games and averaged 10.4 points and 7.1 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 38.5 percent from three-point range.
What Maynor gives the Blazers this season is irrelevant. As the clock ticks on the season and their currently losing streak continues, they’re likely out of the playoff hunt at this point, and Maynor won’t change that. Dumping Hickson for a pick would have gone further in positioning Portland for the draft lottery, but since that deal apparently wasn’t there to be made, they’re essentially staying the course with a slight short-term upgrade at their weakest position, albeit one that won’t make a big enough difference to impact their record in any meaningful way.
The significance of the Maynor acquisition is the options he gives the Blazers this summer. Assuming they extend him the $3.4 million qualifying offer, he will be a restricted free agent. Given how he’s underperformed this year the correlating vanishing of his minutes in Oklahoma City, it’s doubtful he’ll get any sort of offer on the market that the Blazers wouldn’t be comfortable matching. If Maynor takes the qualifying offer, the Blazers will have a cheap, serviceable backup point guard locked up for next season. It’s also possible that Olshey could negotiate a multi-year deal for Maynor at a lower per-year figure. And in the unlikely event that Maynor gets an offer from another team that Portland doesn’t want to match, owning his Bird rights and the right to match any offer gives them leverage to collect future assets or picks in a sign-and-trade deal. It’s certainly more realistic to picture someone giving up a second-round pick in a sign-and-trade for Maynor than it is for Nolan Smith, Luke Babbitt, or any of the other free agents-to-be on Portland’s roster.
Outside of trading Hickson, this was essentially the best-case scenario for what Olshey could have reasonably hoped to pull off at the deadline. Maynor cost next to nothing to acquire, gives Portland a controllable asset to either keep or use in a future move, and is in all likelihood significantly better than either of the team’s other current options to back up Lillard. There is absolutely no downside to making this move from the Blazers’ perspective, and Olshey took advantage of the opportunity for no-risk improvement when it presented itself to him.