Blazers Portland has the 33rd pick.  They traded their first round pick to Toronto for Damon Stoudamire who traded the pick to Houston.  In the real draft they do not have a pick Their GM is: Simon Cushing

Who selects: Radoslav Nesterovic (7’, 248lbs), Slovenia


Overall, the makeup of the team changed pretty drastically from last season to this one, but the team ended up doing what it had done for the past six years: lose in the first round of the playoffs. Some of that can be blamed on major injuries (Grant and Sabonis missed games, as did Stoudamire after he was acquired), some on the turmoil of major trades, but most probably on immaturity and certain glaring weaknesses (most notably ability to keep hold of the ball - the Blazers were among the worst in the league at turnovers, steals and assists). In fact, only the Blazer tradition of being among the league leaders in rebounding kept the Blazers out of more losses.

Coaching: out went P.J. Carlesimo (who, for all his faults, had a very good record in the second halves of the last two of his seasons) and in came... Mike Dunleavy. Not the “name” coach that fans expected given owner Paul Allen’s obscene wealth. Rumor had it that P.J. was axed (at least in part) because of his refusal to double-team Shaq in the playoffs (the exact same strategy that Utah used this year). Another supposed flaw was that he didn’t get the team to run more, and Dunleavy came in promising (as every coach in history has done) to get the team fast-breaking. Well THAT idea didn’t last long - and not surprising, when your center is the second-best ball-handler on the team, and the only center in the league he could outrun is Gheorghe Muresan. Dunleavy did an okay job, but the feeling is that he’s just keeping the coaching seat warm. You can never tell what GM Whitsitt is going to do until he does it. Dunleavy was supposed to have well-thought-of Tim Grgurich of Seattle as an assistant coach, but at the last minute he stayed in Seattle another year. Perhaps he’ll come down this year.

Front Office: “Trader” Bob Whitsitt continues to rule with an iron hand. He has managed to remove all traces of the dominant Portland teams of the early 90s, and not just on the court: most controversial of all recent front-office moves has been to give “The Schonz” Shonely, the voice of the Blazers (and coiner of the term “Rip City!” - the name for the fan magazine) his walking papers, and apparently against his will. This would be like the Lakers sacking Chick Hearn, only a few years earlier (Hearn is the only announcer who has been with his current team longer) before he really started to lose it. But this move should not surprise, as Whitsitt has removed practically all trace of Blazer past, and alienated former greats (Clyde Drexler, for one). This is a shame: I would love to see someone like Terry Porter return in an assistant coach capacity, but I can’t see it happening, to be honest.

Personnel-wise, the team got even younger, a running theme in the Whitsitt era. Out went Clifford Robinson, the last remaining link to the two finals squads of the early 90s, in came the excellent (if injury prone) Brian Grant and rookies Kelvin Cato and Alvin Williams. Out also went Chris Dudley (who was sorely missed against Shaq this year). Then, in mid-season, after a very disappointing first half from Kenny Anderson (the only player to like P.J.’s style) came the most exciting moment of the year. Whitsitt managed to trade for native son Damon Stoudamire. The complete trade was Anderson, Gary Trent and Alvin Williams (plus several picks) for Stoudamire, Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers. The worst loss would have been Alvin Williams, but this trade actually give the Blazers a better chance to re-sign him, as they can offer him more as a free agent from Toronto than they could have if he’d stayed. As it was, the worst loss was Trent, because he was a muscular scorer who will be missed off the bench (although his off-court troubles will not be missed).

The team had its ups and downs, most memorably by beating Chicago in Chicago, and then, in the very next game, becoming the first team in NBA history to score less than half what the opponents scored (against Indiana). Rather like last year’s team, the weaknesses of this squad are ball-handling (Rider has the dribbling skills of a small forward, Rasheed Wallace is a PF playing SF) and outside shooting. Also MATURITY is missing, but it’s difficult to trade for that. Chief needs are: a Shaq-stopper (he ABUSED Sabonis for the second year in a row in the playoffs) and shooters and dribblers. The “Jailblazers” tag has been amended somewhat by the addition of good-guy Stoudamire and the subtraction of Gary Trent, who has an alarming history of flying into rages and taking it out on supposed buddies, girlfriends or people in bars (with a pool-cue), as well as the maturation of Rasheed Wallace. However, a team with J.R. Rider on its roster will never be far from the wrong kind of headlines.

Major Free Agents: Stoudamire and Sabonis (who will opt out). Both likely to re- sign.

Players I WISH were Free Agents: Stacy Augmon, Isaiah Rider, Carlos Rogers.



Arvydas SABONIS (7’3”, 292lbs, salary $3,080,000, FA)

73 32.0 .493 30 115 .261 .798 3.0 0.9 2.6 1.1 10.0 16.0

Last summer, for the first time in years, “Sabas” didn’t play in international competition (for Lithuania) and announced to Dunleavy that he was ready to play more minutes. This was a good thing, because Dudley also left in the off-season, leaving the (very) raw Kelvin Cato as his only backup (apart from the ANCIENT Alton Lister, who played so little I haven’t bothered to mention him here). He actually played about 7 mpg more this season than last, and did very well. His endurance was up, and he didn’t flag in the second game of back-to-backs. All- in-all, everything was peachy keen (especially for a run late in the season, where he was first or second in the league in Tendex/minute) until the playoffs, where he was mercilessly pushed around by Shaq and seemed very tentative on offence. When he’s on his game, Sabas is great to watch: he has good low post moves, great strength (Jayson Williams named him as the player he least liked to defend) a good three-point shot (although that seemed to desert him late in the season, and the “new” 3-point line hurt him) and most of all, the flashiest behind-the-back bounce passing of any center. He’s also a DOMINANT rebounder, and a surprising shotblocker for someone who can barely jump at all. Being a legit 7’3” with humungoid arms helps. He’s a free-agent (or at least, has announced he will opt out), and despite his poor showing in the playoffs will be offered at least $7-8M per year over two or three years. He must learn, however, that sometimes the prettiest pass is not the best one, as his turnovers were a big problem in the playoffs.

Kelvin CATO (6’11”, 255lbs, salary $999,240)

74 13.6 .428 0 3 .000 .688 0.3 0.4 0.6 1.3 3.4 3.8

Cato was acquired on draft day by buying up a few places in the draft. Don Nelson drafted him for Dallas, then traded him to Portland for cash and the player Portland drafted, Australian Chris Anstey. Ah, the advantages of a billionaire owner! The jury is still out on the trade, though, as, after a slow start, Anstey really came on, while Cato started out fast then sputtered rather. What Cato can REALLY do, is block shots, but he can also, unlike some shot swatters, rebound. He’s VERY raw offensively (he didn’t play basketball till comparatively late), although his free-throw shooting was a nice surprise (in relative terms). On the whole, a solid rookie season, and showed good potential to be a very good backup and potentially solid starter in the future. Also didn’t back down from the Laker front line in the playoffs, so has guts.


Brian GRANT (6’9”, 254lbs, salary $5,000,000)

61 31.5 .508 0 1 .000 .750 1.4 0.7 1.8 0.7 9.1 12.1

There was much howling and moaning from Blazer fans when Grant was given a big free-agent deal over last summer (although he turned down a bigger offer from Cleveland to come to Portland). The major complaint was that he is a PF and we already HAVE the PF of the future in Rasheed Wallace, and at the time we also had the promising young forward Gary Trent. Why have so much money (Wallace later got a $80M+ extension) tied up in one position when there are holes to be filled elsewhere? Skeptics (myself among them) were quieted somewhat by Grant’s fine early play: the best thing about Brian is his intensity: his will to win is palpable, and he’s a real workhorse on the boards. He also has a decent low-post game, and is currently the Blazer’s enforcer. In all, he’s the closest thing the current team has to a young Buck Williams (because he seems to be a decent guy, too, in marked contrast to some Blazers). Worries resurfaced when he was missing for a long stretch in midseason because of injuries, just as he had been in his time in Sacramento. However, when he returned, fans remembered his ferocious game, and he further endeared himself by being (in my opinion) the Blazers’ best player in the playoffs, and the best defender of Shaq. (Plus he’s got the coolest mini-dreads and a fab Bob Marley tattoo.) The problem of having two PFs remains, however, because Rasheed Wallace was forced to play SF.

Rasheed WALLACE (6’10”, 225lbs, salary $2,329,080)

77 37.6 .533 8 39 .205 .662 2.5 1.0 2.2 1.1 6.2 14.6

Last year in the playoffs, Rasheed was the Blazer’s best player, time and again posting up Elden Campbell and hitting an unstoppable turnaround jumper. At the time, he was the starter at PF, and was a candidate for MIP after his trade from Washington. I had had great doubts about Rasheed, as his reputation as a whining space cadet preceded him, but he turned out to be a solid team player with great upside. As a result, most Blazer fans were delighted to see him sign an extension that was dwarfed by Kevin Garnett’s deal. This season, however, with Cliffy gone and Brian Grant brought in, Rasheed moved to SF, and never really seemed comfortable. Although his outside shooting was respectable (and he shot 80% in the playoffs on threes!) and his passing improved, the limitations on his game became painfully obvious. He cannot create his own shot. He cannot put the ball on the floor AT ALL. He does not have great hands. He still played very well on defense, however, and when given the chance to play in the post (when Grant was out) put up huge numbers (although he’ll never be a great rebounder). So what to do? At the moment, it looks like the Blazers’ two highest paid players (although that’ll change this off-season) can’t coexist. If we had to ship one, I’d say it should be Rasheed: Grant’s cheaper, and he’s a more prototypical PF, and a better rebounder, his only flaw being a tendency to get injured. For the first time, after the playoffs, Rasheed also made it clear that he wanted to shift back to the post next season. Something must be done eventually, because I don’t think Rasheed will ever be an all-star SF, because he lacks dribbling skills, even though he creates matchup problems there. He remains the Blazers’ most tradeable commodity, and, although I think the two PFs experiment will be given another chance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved.

Jermaine O’NEAL (6’11”, 226lbs, salary $950,640)

60 13.5 .485 0 2 .000 .506 0.3 0.2 0.9 1.0 3.3 4.5

It seems you only hear Jermaine’s name mentioned in the national media when a high school player is being denigrated, i.e.: “He thinks he’s the next Kevin Garnett, but really he’s the next Jermaine O’Neal”. Blazer fans in general are a lot higher on him, though. He’s still raw (he is only 19) but he’s not soft: he’s a very good rebounder for someone so thin, and he’s always had great hops. It’s not really surprising he hasn’t had much PT when Grant, Wallace, and Trent or Williams were the forwards ahead of him, but that doesn’t mean the Blazers think he’s a bust. He always looks good in summer league, and rumors always bounce around that he’s still growing, and he’s using creatine to bulk up. If Rasheed WAS moved for a guard, say, he’d get his chance. He hasn’t shown he can dribble, but then, neither has Rasheed. A good player to keep developing on your bench, but will definitely test the FA waters next year unless his PT goes up drastically (and for that reason probably won’t agree to an extension this summer).

Carlos ROGERS (6’10”, 225lbs, salary $1,900,000)

Rogers didn’t play enough to bother listing his stats. He was the “throw-in” in the Stoudamire deal, and got the least PT of the Blazers’ umpteen 6’10”, 225lb forwards. His days as a Blazer are likely numbered, because the Blazers held a mini-camp recently (to get some work on their young players in case there was a lockout) and he was invited but declined. Not a good sign, especially when Rasheed DID bother to show.


Walt WILLIAMS (6’8”, 222lbs, salary $3,750,000)

31 19.2 .378 31 90 .344 .908 1.7 0.6 1.3 0.4 2.6 8.4

The “Wizard” was a minimum pay player last year in Toronto, and did well enough to garner a fat contract. He didn’t look good this year, however, and after Isiah Thomas left, he was always a target to be unloaded. And unloaded he was, on the Blazers. He SHOULD be a valuable player for the Blazers, as he is the ‘purest’ SF they have, and his strengths (ball handling, passing, outside shot) are Blazer weaknesses. His relatively low playing time was therefore a surprise, except that he was wildly erratic, and would follow a great game with a lousy one. A constant, however, was that he plays defense with his hands instead of his feet, and is always likely to foul out (he was once called “the worst defender in the NBA”). Why is he unlikely to be traded? Check out his playoff numbers:

4 25.5 .548 8 15 .533 .786 2.2 0.2 0.2 0.0 3.5 13.2

He finally came to play and embarrassed Kobe Bryant, his Laker counterpart. If he could keep this kind of play up over the long haul, he would get enough playing time to foul out 20 times a season!

Stacy AUGMON (6’8”, 222lbs, salary $2,800,000)

71 20.4 .414 1 7 .143 .603 1.2 0.8 1.1 0.5 3.3 5.7

Augmon has been a disappointment. He has not improved in all the years he’s been in the league. He remains a stellar defender (just ask Grant Hill) and a completely inept offensive player. (If some mad scientist could work out a way to splice the best features of two players into one, we could combine Walt Williams and Augmon and have Scottie Pippen!) He can’t dribble worth a damn, and has a horrible tendency to attempt a spin-move in the paint every time he has the ball, usually resulting in an offensive foul or a turnover. “Plastic Man” is much more suited to a fast-breaking style, but the Blazers’ personnel better fits a half-court game, and Stacy suffered for it. If anyone would take him and his salary on, he’d be gone. Rumors of gang affiliations (plus quotes like: "I put this on my two sons' lives, I will get you," said to the mother of Larry Johnson's child for refusing an abortion) do not help his case either, especially given how sensitive the Blazers have cause to be about their image.


Isaiah “J.R.” RIDER (6’5”, 225lbs, salary $4,210,000)

74 37.6 .423 135 420 .321 .828 3.1 0.7 2.5 0.3 4.7 19.7

Rider is a pain in the ass. If the guy wasn’t talented, the team could just sit him or waive him and forget about him. However, he does have great talent. He’s big, he’s very strong, he has tremendous hops, and despite this, he still has a very solid outside shot (although his three-point shooting is distinctly streaky). On top of that, he’s an excellent free-throw shooter, decent defender and good rebounder for a guard. Altogether now: if he only had a brain... He is a certified space cadet. It’s not just his INNUMERABLE off-court problems (illegal cell-phones, smoking dope from a soda can in a publicly parked car, gambling on street corners, etc., etc. - for full details go to which actually aren’t as serious as, say, Gary Trent’s, it’s that he just doesn’t seem to have a clue. He misses flights, practices, he accuses Oregonians of still carrying out lynchings, he concocts conspiracy theories about people following him, and worst of all (from a basketball standpoint) he actually got up and walked out in the middle of a game this year. Also, he’s not a good team player: the ball comes to him and stops there for a good 10-15 seconds as he tries to fake out his man again and again, before either disgustedly giving the ball to the nearest teammate or throwing up an off-balance jumper. He has improved: he does TRY to involve other people, but it’s still only as a second option. Also, he’s a very poor dribbler for a guard (which leads to a lot of turnovers, and kills fast breaks) and he can get very lazy on defense. Both his good points and his bad points were on display in this year’s playoffs. As usual, he outscored Eddie Jones (for some reason J.R. has a bee in his bonnet about Jones - it’s clear he resents Eddie’s all-star status, and always comes to play against him) because he can just overpower Jones in the post, and also bothers him on defense. But as usual, he hogged the ball, while Jones, despite his offensive troubles, played amazing team defense, and his team won the series convincingly.

It’s my opinion that Rider’s deficiencies easily outweigh his advantages, and, as Minnesota realized, he must be dumped for the team to prosper. Portland will lose some games as a result, but win far more, and develop as a TEAM. Supposedly Whitsitt has finally come to this conclusion (after nixing a pre-trading deadline Rider-for-Barry trade last year) and is looking for takers. He won’t get many.

Damon STOUDAMIRE (5’9-and-a-smidgen”, 171 lbs, salary: $1,748,760, FA)

22 36.6 .364 26 99 .263 .787 8.2 1.5 2.9 0.1 3.7 12.4

Heeere he comes to save the day! If you look at Damon’s numbers, it certainly doesn’t look like he deserves the $100mil contract that he’s about to get. His shot was just awful, and, because he’s 5’9”, he can be posted up with relative ease. But that’s not why the Blazers will break the bank to sign him: it’s because he’s got a heart, and he’s a leader. For all his skills, Kenny Anderson was NOT a leader (neither was Rod Strickland, for that matter) and this team DESPERATELY needs a player who HURTS when he loses (other than Brian Grant) and who will take over games when necessary. Damon could be that player. He also does all the little things: Dunleavy raved most about the fact that Stoudamire, like Stockton, routinely sets nasty back picks on big men. He’s got guts a- plenty, to go with his eye-popping speed.

He is, of course, a free agent, and there are many mumurings that Houston will pursue him. He said recently that he’s most likely to return to Portland but that Houston is still an option. Portland can offer him the most money, of course, and if Houston gets Scottie Pippen, there will be no money left. I think that it’s about 80% certain he’ll be back, and that’s a good thing. The excitement the trade generated was palpable, and a Stoudamire-led team will get the city of Portland behind the Blazers as much as they were for the Drexler teams, and will overcome the discontent many now feel about the “Jailblazers”. I just hope that at some point his jumpshot returns. He was bothered by various nagging leg injuries all year, and with luck, he’ll have a chance to heal over the off-season (and maybe longer, if the lockout drags on).

One somewhat disturbing piece of gossip that has emerged from Portland recently is that the love between Dunleavy and Stoudamire is not mutual, and that Damon is rooting for Dunleavy to be replaced. Apparently he doesn’t think the system that the Blazers play suits him, and wants George Karl and his uptempo game. I don’t tend to like coach-killers, but Magic got over that rep., and having Karl would, I think, be a good thing. What Damon must realize, however, is that the Blazers just don’t have the personnel to fast break efficiently at the moment. Getting more ball-handlers (say, by replacing Rasheed and/or Rider) would help a lot.

John CROTTY (6’2”, 194lbs, salary $420,000)

26 14.6 .322 6 20 .300 .941 2.4 0.4 1.6 0.0 1.2 3.7

The Blazers were without a decent backup PG last year, making do with such castoffs as Rumeal Robinson, so Whitsitt went out and signed Crotty to a 2-year deal over the summer. Good idea: Crotty is a very solid backup - good shooter, thinks pass first (unlike Kenny Anderson) and tough. Only his slowness of foot makes him less than ideal. Only problem was, he missed most of the season with a bad knee injury and was barely healthy for the playoffs. If he could return to pre-injury form, he’d still be a good backup - he runs a team well. But he was noticeably slower and his shot was MIA after he came back. But he was not missed this season, because of...

Alvin WILLIAMS (6’5”, 185lbs, salary $242,000, FA)

41 21.1 .458 7 24 .292 .734 2.0 0.7 1.2 0.0 1.5 6.9

Alvin Williams was THE pleasant surprise of the Blazers’ season. In fact, that’s the reason I’m talking about him despite the fact that he ended the season as a Raptor. That, and the fact that everyone (including Glen Grunwald) expects Whitsitt to offer Alvin Portland’s $1M exception this year to come back. Williams started a lot of games early, thanks to injuries to Crotty and Anderson, and suspensions to Rider, and the team was, at one point, 9-1 with him starting. He’s a Nate McMillan kind of player: big, versatile (can play point or shooting guard) and TOTALLY team oriented. There is absolutely no flash or pretence about him. Blazers fans fell in love, the fact that he was a low second round pick making him all the more adorable. He had arthroscopic surgery after the Raptors acquired him and had a miserable remaining season, so there’s reason to believe the Raptors might not want him. Good, because we do! I’d go so far as to say I’d rather have him start than J.R. Rider. The fact that he’s an old Philly buddy of Rasheed’s might help.

Rick BRUNSON (6’3”, 200lbs, salary $272,250, FA)

38 16.4 .348 22 61 .361 .677 2.6 0.7 1.4 0.1 1.5 4.3

Brunson was a CBA reclaimee who flourished early (notably when he scored about 16 points in the fourth quarter against the Lakers in a losing effort), but was chained to the bench by the end of the season. He’s a tweener: shoots too much for a PG, doesn’t shoot well enough to be an SG (remind you of another Temple star?). If he works on his shot, he’ll stick on somebody’s roster, but by the end of the year Gary Grant deservedly got all his minutes. Brunson is unlikely to be back.

Gary GRANT (6’1”, 180lbs, salary $272,250, FA)

22 16.3 .462 7 19 .368 .857 3.8 0.8 1.1 0.1 2.2 4.8

Grant was a backup in Miami for a while (ironically, I think he was replaced by Crotty) and I thought his career was over when he had to have back surgery (Riley’s famous practices), but he was playing in the CBA this year until the Blazers snagged him out of there, and he was the team’s best backup PG in the latter stages of the season. A good defender, adequate distributer, and better shooter than I remember him being as a Clipper. I’d like to have him back as insurance against Crotty, but he’s probably gone.

A few players who passed through or left this year: Dontonio Wingfield: perhaps an even better “Stay in School” poster child than Jermaine. Supposedly a lottery pick in the making, he left Cincinnati as a freshman and now has been waived by at least 3 teams. He asked to be released by the Blazers so he could play in Europe, but when last heard of, he’d just been waived by his Spanish team!

Vincent Askew: played well enough when given the chance, but was let go, and also managed to piss off a Euro team enough that they canned him. Alton Lister: really should’ve retired last year. In fact, most people thought he had until the Blazers signed him. Managed to last to the end of the year.


The Blazers need ball-handling and outside shooting the most, especially if they are to run more. Stacey Augmon is currently the backup at SG, and given he can’t dribble OR shoot, that’s not good news. Failing that, backup bulk would be a plus, because although the Blazers are the tallest team in the NBA (by average), they’re not nearly the heaviest. Only Brian Grant and Sabas are bulky, and Sabas really shouldn’t play that many minutes. This lack of bulk shows up most when the Blazers play the Lakers and Shaq pushes people around like ninepins. Finally, the Blazers don’t really have a prototypical SF: Walt Williams is the closest, and he can’t play defense if his life depended on it. With that in mind I pick:

Radoslav Nesterovic (7’, 248lbs), Slovenia

Like Sasha Danilovic, played for Euro champs Kinder Bologna (where he is still under contract, but can be bought out, he reckons for $1M, NBA GM.s reckon it could be bargained down to a quarter of that). Not exactly bulky, but a young center who could fill out and shows promise. According to the Arizona Republic he got outplayed by Stepania in a tryout recently and was compared with Blair Rassumssen! But at this point, he’s a good pick, especially as there are no “stars” available. The Blazers would probably be better off NOT buying him out and letting him play in Europe for a year or two more until Sabas finally gives out. I’d really prefer to make a gamble on someone like Ruben Patterson or Sam Jacobson, but big men are hard to get, so I’ll take the boring pick.


Big Men:

Jahidi White (6’9”, 290), Georgetown Definitely fits the ‘bulk’ label. Helped himself at the Desert Classic and pre- draft and could be a good banger on defense. [Taken by Washington at #30]

[NOT considered: Jelani McCoy. Another 6’10” stringbean, all athlete, no skills, with a checkered past? No thanks, we’ve got plenty.]

Small Forwards:

Ruben Patterson (6’6”, 225lbs), Cincinnati Supposedly starred at the Chicago Pre-Draft camp. Doesn’t really fill a need (not a great shooter or dribbler, main strengths athleticism and defense), but sounds a lot like a young Jerome Kersey.

Roshown McLeod (6’8”, 220lbs), Duke Shoots well, particularly from 3. Soft? [Taken by Seattle]

Bakari Hendrix (6’8”, 230lbs), Gonzaga MVP of the Desert Classic, who showed surprising outside range, hitting from NBA 3-point distance at times. Could he be a Cedric Ceballos-like sleeper?


Miles Simon (6’5”, 200lbs), Arizona Been called “overrated” so often he’s underrated. Reminds me of Rex Chapman - streaky (and a bit one-dimensional) but clutch. Handles the ball well, too. [Taken by Denver at #23]

Sam Jacobson (6’6”, 215lbs), Minnesota Good shooter, nice size. Too slow?

Cuttino Mobley (6’4”, 190lbs), Rhode Island Starred in the Tourney. A bit small, but quick and can really shoot. Worth a 2nd round pick, but at 33?


Nobody. The team doesn’t have a pick, and with the youth of the team, there’s not that much point to getting any younger. The player the Blazers are known to be interested in is not in the draft. It’s Jamal Robinson, who went undrafted out of Virginia last year, but excelled in the Blazers’ Training Camp last fall, before getting injured. He still hasn’t fully recovered, but given that he looked better than Alvin Williams at the time, and is 6’7” with guard-like ball- handling skills, he’s been promised another chance.

It’s possible that the Blazers will just buy a second round pick (as they did with Vancouver’s last year, taking C.J. Bruton (let me know if you’ve any idea where he’s playing), but I couldn’t say in advance where the pick would be. Then again, Whitsitt has a penchant for pulling draft-day trades (Shawn Respert for Gary Trent and a pick, Chris Anstey plus cash for Kelvin Cato), so who knows?


Priorities: The Blazers need to get a more mature/winning attitude, and improve ball-handling and outside shooting. Those considerations motivate most of the following suggestions.

I think the Blazers should definitely try to unload Augmon and/or Rider, preferably for a veteran guard who can shoot and handle the ball. Easier said than done, of course. I wouldn’t mind a Rider for Ron Harper trade, to be frank (which tells you how much I think of Rider) because that would make the team better defensively, and give another ball-handler for the fast break, as well as open up scoring opportunities for the Blazers’ front line (Rider took WAY more shots than he should have). Another possibility would be to the Clippers, who were prepared to take him before. Piatkowski is limited in a lot of ways, but he can really shoot, and he’s actually not as terrible defensively as you might think. Piatkowski + Vrankovic (big stiff the Clippers want to dump) would about match salaries. And maybe there’s someone out there who still thinks Augmon can play - who knows. If either or both could be unloaded for picks, that might free up some cap room to sign a free agent. One player I’d be very interested in would be Predrag “Sasha” Danilovic, MVP of Europe after leading Kinder Bologna to the Euro title. He didn’t really shine in his short stint in the NBA, in Miami and then Dallas, but he was injured a lot. He’s shown he’s recovered, and one thing he can REALLY do is shoot. I would see replacing Rider with him as a definite upgrade. However, I don’t know if he’s under contract to his team (or if he’d even want to come back), and that would complicate matters. Otherwise, a free-agent I’d pursue if cap room opened up would be Mario Elie (who was a Blazer before he went to Houston). He’s not got much left in the tank, but with luck his professionalism and winning attitude would rub off.

Any trade that the Blazers make that doesn’t involve our two UNLV grads (or scrubs like Carlos Rogers) should involve one of Rasheed or Brian Grant. I think they’ll be given another year together, but ultimately neither can flourish at SF. Of the two, I’d recommend moving Wallace, but only if the offer’s very tempting. (For example, if Vancouver can’t re-sign Abdur-Rahim, and want to trade him next year, I’d definitely offer Rasheed. Wallace is better defensively, but Abdur-Rahim actually CAN play SF, and will be a star there.) Other than those suggestions, two obvious moves the Blazers must (and will) make will be re-signing Stoudamire (probably to a 7-year $100mil contract) and Sabonis (probably to a 3-year $20mil contract, with the last year not guaranteed). Sabonis is old, but he’s as slow as he’s going to get, and against every center in the league except Shaq he can have dominant games. Stoudamire will be (I hope) the soul of the Blazers. (Another reason to get rid of Rider - Rider actually believes HE’S the soul of the Blazers. Very scary if true...)

Finally: SIGN ALVIN WILLIAMS to the $1M exemption. With any luck, there’ll be no better offers because of his disappointing play in Toronto after his surgery. Plus, he liked it in Portland, so maybe he can forgive the team for trading him.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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