A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The Gerald Wallace trade and the importance of big picture thinking

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Gerald WallaceOne of the most universally praised moves of the trade deadline is Portland acquiring Gerald Wallace for two late 1st round picks. Yes, no doubt the Blazers acquired the all-star Wallace at a cheap price. The Bobcats’ desire to clear Wallace’s contract (2 years, 21 million after this season) lowered his trade value to this level. This doesn’t mean it’s a smart move for the Blazers.

The value Wallace brings to a team is in the next 2 and a half seasons. After this he will be both an unrestricted free agent and a veteran over 30. As Wallace’s game is extremely reliant on athleticism, one can expect his production to fall off when his legs do. He’d thus be a great acquisition for a team like Dallas or San Antonio team trying to win a title in the next 3 seasons.

But the Blazers? They were set to be a 1st round knockout without Wallace. With him, they’ll either be a more difficult 1st round knockout or a spoiler making the 2nd round. The long term plan for the Blazers to contend for a title is unclear. Andre Miller and Marcus Camby will soon decline and lose their value as good starters. After this the team will be hard pressed to make a core of Wesley Johnson, Nic Batum, Gerald Wallace, and Lamarcus Aldridge into anything more than playoff fodder. The more trade assets they give away, the harder it will to build around them. Brandon Roy’s albatross contract (4 years, 69 million after this season) will put a hold on their cap flexibility as well.

What if the Blazers went the other way and traded Miller and Camby for draft picks? Now let’s say the team adds two 1sts, which combined with the two they don’t give up for Wallace, gives them a 4 1st swing between pushing in and taking a step back in favor of youth. With a possible 3 or 4 picks in the 2011 draft, the Blazers perhaps could package them to move into the top 10 to try and find a long term starter beside Lamarcus Aldridge – perhaps a PG of the future. Now this is a strategy with a long term goal clearly outlined. Of course eventually moving to contention would be difficult, but the Blazers would at least be operating under a plan to try.

As it stands I believe the Gerald Wallace deal and holding onto Andre Miller and Marcus Camby will make the Blazers look good in the short term – But after 3 years the Blazers will find they would have better served taking a step back, hording instead of giving away draft picks and capspace in honor of Kevin Pritchard, and looking at the big picture of building a real contender around Lamarcus Aldridge.

The teams who succeed in the NBA are the those with one eye on the future. When valuable assets are traded for veterans with depreciating value, the result is a boom period followed by just as heavy if not greater a fall. When teams make this fall it is usually when they find themselves in a hole they cannot get out of. The change in management from Kevin Pritchard to Rich Cho for the Blazers appears to have signified a shift from patient asset accumulation to asset spending. Long term, I don’t believe this direction is the right one for the Blazers.

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