Like most of you, I spent my New Year’s Eve chilling on the couch watching an amazing matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Wait. You guys were all out partying and livin’ it up?! Well YOU missed out my friends, not me. The Blazers staged an epic comeback (down by as much as 16) and ending up leaving Oklahoma City with a much-needed road win — perhaps their biggest of the year.
Having said this, I watched the game and all I could think of after was “my goodness did the Blazers give up a TON of points in the paint … yet again!” (OKC had 46, by the way). Oh, you didn’t share my sentiments? You were super thrilled that they got the win and that’s all you care about? Well I applaud your fandom, but my thoughts are focused on long-term success and the points in the paint issue is something that needs to be fixed for this current roster to contend for an NBA Championship.
The issue of allowing points in the paint, regardless of popular belief, does not rest solely on the shoulders on the bigs for the Blazers. Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews have to do a more reputable job of keeping their man out of the paint, so that Aldridge and Lopez aren’t forced to come help, ultimately resulting in their man being open for an easy bucket.
I don’t know if you guys have heard or not, but there’s a legit 7’0″ center in the NBA just ready to be had and his name is Omer Asik. Early in the season I wasn’t sold on the idea of mortgaging the farm to go after Asik, because frankly the Blazers were playing unreal basketball. Now, having looked more deeply into what plagues the defense, I think he is an amazing answer to the problem. The other contenders in the NBA don’t give up near the amount of points in the paint the Blazers do. Portland ranks dead last in opponent points in the paint at an awful 49.1 points per game. Indiana leads the league at 35.5, the Thunder are at 38.6, Spurs 39.8 and Heat 40.2 respectively.
All of those teams have: A) A lock down defender on the wing and B) Bigs to protect the paint — the Heat have LeBron who assumes both roles, because well…he’s ridiculous like that. Portland has Nicolas Batum who has been guarding the other teams’ best wing/forward player for a couple of years now, but they lack the inside presence. Aldridge is a big power forward at 6’11” but shot blocking has never been his area of expertise (career high for a season 1.2 blocks and this year he’s only at 0.9 per night).
So, how the Blazers get Omer Asik into a Rip City jersey (with no sleeves hopefully – *crosses fingers*) without giving up the farm, or messing with a team chemistry that seems to be unbreakable at this moment?
Houston Rockets get:
SF – Thaddeus Young
Philadelphia 76ers get:
PF – Thomas Robinson
C – Meyers Leonard
2014 Second Round draft pick from Houston (via Knicks)
Portland Trail Blazers get:
C – Omer Asik
This deal gets each of the three teams what they want and need. First, let’s take a look at the Blazer’s perspective. They get to add a defensive stalwart in Omer Asik without giving up any starters or major bench contributors. They are giving away two young talents that were both first round picks in the 2012 NBA Draft — Robinson went fifth overall while Leonard went 11th. However, their starting frontcourt of LaMarcus Aldridge and Omer Asik immediately makes them NBA championship contenders when you factor in the success Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum have had so far on the wings. The “loser” here is obviously Robin Lopez because he would be reduced to a backup center role — however he gets to stay on a championship-level team and still contribute mightily.
Houston wants a stretch power forward for Omer Asik. The perfect fit to everyone who has eyes and watches the NBA is Ryan Anderson from New Orleans, however the Pelicans have clearly said they have no interest in such a deal. So, this deal lands them Thaddeus Young, who is having a career year on the woeful 76ers. Young is still only 25 years old and is averaging a career high 17.6 points per game, while shooting a stunning 50 percent from the floor and a career high 43.3 percent from 3-point range. He is not going to knock down three to four 3s a game like a Ryan Anderson, however he has now developed that shot enough to be trusted when called upon. The “loser” for the Rockets is Terrence Jones, who himself is only 21 years old, because he has filled in very well at the starting power forward spot averaging 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds, but only shooting 30.3 percent from 3.
The wild card in this deal is of course the Philadelphia 76ers, who started out as obvious “tankers” this season, then rode a hot start by Evan Turner and Michael Carter-Williams and are now back in the “we suck and we know it” mode. Thaddeus Young denies it, but there have been reports out there suggesting that he is not happy in Philadelphia and would like to be traded — this would certainly remove that distraction from the locker room for a young, developing roster. Also, the are adding two 2012 lottery picks in Robinson and Leonard. Neither has panned out in Portland (or Robinson in Sacramento or Houston) but to be fair neither has had ample opportunity to do so. Robinson in particular could slide right into the starting power forward spot for Philly and finally show the league what he’s got. Leonard would be the backup behind Spencer Hawes for now, but if Hawes and his expiring contract are moved by the NBA trade deadline, then he too could be a starter for this Philly squad that holds two first round picks next season as well. They would also get a second-round draft pick in 2014 (from Houston via the New York Knicks) to add to their bounty in this deal.
In no way have their been rumors, reports, or even speculation (until now) about a deal like this being done. However, I don’t think this is too far-fetched for Neil Olshey to make happen. Maybe a couple of other players get substitute or added to the deal, but as long as C.J. McCollum, Mo Williams or Dorell Wright aren’t moved (along with any starters of course) then I think it’s a winning deal for the Blazers. Here’s what Sam Amick tweeted in mid-December regarding the Blazers’ involvement or lack thereof in an Asik trade:
Re: Omer Asik & rumored Portland involvement, I’m told Blazers “not even remotely involved.” Yahoo! reporting Boston making progress.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) December 18, 2013
So, for now it seems this is wishful thinking on this columnist’s part, but I just recently watched Pinocchio and there are an awful lot of stars up here in the Pacific Northwest…
**You can contact Chris regarding this article or anything basketball related on Twitter: @Chris_Reichert