Despite high cost, Blazers likely to match Batum’s offer from Wolves





HANG TIME WEST – The plan from the beginning was the right plan: The Trail Blazers would match any offer sheet Nicolas Batum signed and keep an important part of the lineup in place while they made significant additions through the draft and free agency.

Grow the team with Batum at 23 years old and set at small forward. Protect an asset. It made perfect sense.

But then came Thursday and news that restricted free agent Batum and the Timberwolves had agreed to a four-year, $45-million deal that can top $50 million with incentive bonuses. It came with the kicker that Batum and his agent urged Portland officials not to match.

And suddenly the end result was not so simple. Not the part about the request to let Batum go Minnesota. That is common in these situations, is usually rightly ignored by the original team, and in time becomes a forgotten part of a tangled negotiating process. Same thing with Eric Gordon and the Hornets – he has an agreement with the Suns, he said his heart is in Phoenix, and every indication is that New Orleans will match anyway.

It’s the other part. The one about Nicolas Batum averaging $11.25 million annually.

Even among those of us firmly in the belief that matching on key restricted free agents should be routine unless the team has a successor in place or the offer is so over the top rope and there is a better way to use the money, eight figures a year for Batum may be the breaking point. He defends. He hits threes. But don’t mangle a salary cap over him.

Neil Olshey, the new Trail Blazers point man in basketball operations, knows how this goes. He was general manager with the Clippers last season when they matched on DeAndre Jordan, an outcome obvious to everyone except the Warriors who made roster moves to create the cap room and did the offer sheet. It was an automatic for Los Angeles even at four years and $43 million for a player with lesser credentials than Batum.

There were obviously differences. Jordan is a center, along with point guard the toughest position to get settled. (One of the reasons it would be tough for the Pacers to let Roy Hibbert walk after he signs a Portland offer sheet on July 11). Jordan had shown the potential to be a major defensive presence. He was close friends with Blake Griffin, and if you’re the Clippers in December 2011, you do whatever it takes to keep Blake Superior happy.

Nothing changes the bottom line that losing talented free agents for nothing, or close to nothing with a weak sign-and-trade return, is a severe blow. So the Trail Blazers will match on Batum if he moves forward with the Timberwolves and signs next week. Relationships hurt far worse than they heal. And if it does not heal, the Blazers can eventually trade him, and then for the best deal around the league and not just the best deal available within a few days from only Minnesota.

It’s just that it is four years and $45 million for Nicolas Batum. There is something to be said for the Trail Blazers seeing that breaking point. There is something to be said from seeing the competitive advantage in letting that number sit on the Timberwolves cap for someone who probably never makes an All-Star team. Portland then goes out and signs a replacement small forward for a lot less money.

In the end, though, what Portland realizes is the only thing that matters in these cases, away from the emotion of the moment.

Protect the asset.

39 Comments

  1. batume blkows and so does france….let him go freeze his balls off. who cares, he was never any good to begin with

  2. AJ says:

    Why would the blazers match batum’s offer from the wolves? if the guy made his decision to go to Minnesota and leave Portland?!! The blazers should let batum go!!!! c’mon they already got damian lillard and meyers leonard.

    • D Lion says:

      Yes but they are PG and C, respectively. Batum is a SF. The only other SF the Blazers have is Luke Babbitt, and he’s not exactly a starter…

  3. SamB71 says:

    Sign and Trade Batum for Roy?

  4. riverman says:

    I also might add that Batum and Mathews were frustrated last season with G Wallace, Crawford and Felton getting most of the 4th quarter touches. Batum and Mathews didn’t get the ball where they needed it and Nic was clearly under utilized. Some of that blame has to fall on Nate. Lillard is going to change that culture and Batum when locked into 5 years is going to have the opportunity to become an allstar.

  5. riverman says:

    I work on the puzzle of free agency to amuse myself but one thing is different this season. I really, really trust Neil Olshey’s instincts. Go Blazers! After watching some film on our new rookies, I’m really excited about the youth movement. I think Elliot Williams…(not a rookie) will light it up this year and just want a coach that uses a 12 man rotation. Fresh legs and smart substitutions. We have nowhere to go but up after last season.

  6. Dumb Statments says:

    @Herr Dude Minny can’t sign and trade him for cheaper if he signs the offer sheet he’s going to get paid that money and he’ll make that money he’s only 23 in portland he’ll be besides two good big men(LA and Hibbert) in minny he’ll be next to players who open the floor him (Love and Rubio) so no matter what he’ll make either of us a playoff contender which with enough experience will make us a title contender.

  7. mor says:

    i really see him as a tayshaun prince type of player. same effect on the game, i wouldn`t build a team on this guy but I see him being a key player that can play both sides of the court.

  8. TheRealGURU says:

    french pleyers are dumb. an honest observation

  9. Herr says:

    Wolves are just trying to raise prices for the Blazers. Since Portland has simply owned the Wolves in every position for the past 8 seasons or so, they’re trying to mess with Portland. Look at this way. Adelman, Banyo, Roy, Webster, and Batum were all recent Blazers, except Adelman, who however was able to get the Blazers deep. They also say we traded them damaged goods with the Webster deal.

    They don’t give a damn about Batum. They are just raising the cap. That is why they are wanting a sign and trade rather than sign him for that money. But, that is going to be costly regardless for Minny, as we’re not interested in letting Batum go.

    It could be just a ploy that Minnesota is trying to do. Much like Portland did to Utah with Millsap and Mathews. I wouldn’t be surprised if Minnesota had their eyes on someone else on the Blazers. After all, we have 2 lottery picks. Damian Lillard was the 2nd highest scorer in college basketball. If he develops a clutch game, and can be a 20-25ppg player and be an okay defender, many teams are going to look at him. And if we’re giving Batum 8 digits, paying Wesley only 14m less, paying Aldridge and Hibbert the max… we’re not going to have much to keep Lillard and possibly Meyers Leonard here.

    I don’t know if I want the Blazers to resign Batum or not. I love Batum… but I would hate to see him go to a quitting team like the Wolves. It pains me enough that Roy decided to sign there. Oh well, after his contract he’ll return to Portland. At least he didn’t go Nash on us and sign with that pathetic team in LA

    • Dan says:

      What makes you think he will resign with the blazers. The only way he will resign with us is if in 2 years the blazers are for some odd reason the new HEAT and all stars decide to come here and cut there contracts ( lol will never happen) then Roy will say he wants to come here to play for his old team when its just a cover of him chasing a ring because he will be older and wont be getting a ring with the wolves. even in best case scenario Roy comes back and is 80 percent of what he use to be and they get batum they wont get a ring to many players are stacking great players with really good veterans

    • D Lion says:

      Interesting thoughts. I too am glad Roy didn’t take the “anything to get a ring” approach, but signed with a potentially good team that could use his talents. And I hope it’s not a coincidence that Roy’s contract with the Wolves ends the same year he would be eligible to return to Portland…:-)

      • Dan says:

        Im suprised it wasnt a 1 year deal. Im sure if he could have gotten a longer contract he would have but how long of a contract do you expect to get after retiringbecause of bad knees.

  10. ronndell_resurreccion says:

    just make a sign in trade for it to be a win-win situation…

  11. jmndodge says:

    Hoping that Portland finds it to expensive to keep Batum. Don’t think he is a franchise player, but he would strengthen a weakness on the wolves.

  12. T-WOLVES says:

    pontential starting 5 for next season C gasol PF love SF batum SG roy PG rubio .. EPIC!!

  13. reggie says:

    batum will never be an all star. after 2 years of a players play thats how you will know how they play

  14. Bret says:

    As a Timberwolves fan, the agreement they reached with Batum is perplexing to say the least. Obviously, they’re trying to sign him to a deal that will be hard for the Blazers to match. But seriously, Batum is not worth that kind of money. He’s a solid player and I understand why teams want him, but 8 figures for a mid-level guy just seems ridiculous to me. I’m just crossing my fingers that the Pacers match the deal for Hibbert so the Blazers will be more inclined to match the deal for Batum. Will adding Batum help the Wolves make the playoffs? Definitely. Will it elevate them to being legitimate title contenders? Simply, no, in fact, it probably prevents them from becoming a title contender because of all the cap space locked up with him. If he does come to the Wolves, I would fully expect that Kevin Love will be preparing to opt out of the fourth year of his deal with the Wolves and go to a team that can actually compete for a title. David Kahn has made two good decisions in his time with the Wolves: drafting Ricky Rubio and signing Rick Adelman. Aside from those two bright spots, he’s been an utter failure in every way. And considering the shoes he had to fill (McFail’s), the fact that he’s failed so completely is laughable. No one wanted the Wolves to sign him in the first place, but unfortunately, he got the job and has has only proven that the fans were right in not liking the choice. I will always be a Wolves fan, but this deal going through will definitely make it hard to watch them linger as a lower-rung playoff team for the next 3 years. And when Love leaves and Rubio doesn’t resign, the next rebuilding project will begin and hopefully, this time, they’ll find a GM who can actually do it right!

    • Dan says:

      How can you judge Batum what is worth the money or not his entire career he has been a backup the only time he starts is when he was filling in for injuries. With Batum now not having gerald to compete against he gets those minutes and if we sign a really good SF lets say by chance then even better bc he can then just move to SG. Also Batums contract wasnt offered because of what he has done but what he will do. Its all based off his potential and his potential is through the roof.

  15. tom says:

    batum is a good player but i think there is better out there i would like to see sign and trade i think if we get hibbert then we wont be in a rebuild with him and la we got some peices to put others around lets get some vets on this team and make a push!

  16. Fefe (Nets) says:

    LOL @ he will never make an All-Star team…. He is only 23 and in Portland he never played at his advantage, we only asked him to get to the corner waiting the ball to shoot 3 pointers. Of course he has his defense too. But this guy is very athletic and can slash through defenses. He feels that in Minny, he will have a better opportunity to show all he can do!

    And yes, 23 y.o. and trust me very talented, he can be an All-Star in 2, 3 years (Of course if he’s not overlooked by the fans or especially the coaches, like Bibby or Camby had been all their careers and J-Smoove, Monta more recently).

    And on July 29th, he will play for France against US during the London Olympics. He will have a bigger role in the national squad so don’t be surprised if he plays “better” than in Portland.

    Anyway good luck to him! Bonne chance à toi Nicolas!!!

    • Dan says:

      The only reason i could see Batum not becoming a all star is if he stays in portland. Portland just doesnt get recognized arounfd the league i mean LA is better then Blake Griffin but Blake is just entertaining and has the media all over him.

  17. dan says:

    we wont be rebuilding if we keep batum and also sign hibbert and a veteran point guard to mentor lillard

    • Shootums says:

      I agree with Dan. I think the Blazers should keep Batum, and see how He responds and performs after a big payday. Blazers will have a new style of play: and Batum can be an integral part of its design, if He can handle it.

  18. Chris says:

    It is obvious that Batum in 2-3 years or so might make the all-star game, but in Portland he doesn’t have as much as an oppurtunity to do as good as with the timbers. Crawford and Felton along with now Hickson and Flynn its gonna be extremly hard for Batum to put up some good numbers because how much these other guys shoot. The two safest options for Batum are to either wait to see if the Blazers sign this four guys again especially if they sign Felton and if they dont depending on the money sign with the Blazers. The other option would be in my opinion the safest by signing with the Timberwolves now. I believe the Timberwolves have a more stable team and a brighter future than the blazers. Just because you have a lot of cap money doesnt mean you can capitalize on adding the better players to your team.

  19. Travis says:

    I like french players they know what it takes to make it in the NBA!

  20. Jason says:

    @Ken if we do sign Nic Batum will have the same amount of cap space, as we would if we don’t sign him. The only reason that cap space stays the same is because Blazers own Batum.

  21. Jeff says:

    He’s a restricted FA who got better playing for portland… Portland aquired him and to let him go for nothing when he would be a huge aspect of the growth of this team (as he’s only 23) would be insane. That’d be like letting Damian Lillard go 4 years from now when he’s just about to hit his prime and when portland didn’t aquire him just for a need but to be their franchise pg for the next several years. Letting batum go for nothing would be a waste. Match and keep him with bird clause which wont hurt capspace terribly or trade. Period.

  22. Darren says:

    It doesnt make sense to keep him for this amount of money! Simply re-sign and trade… Save the money for next off season and sign someone who is worth the money!

    • Chris says:

      Smart comment, Blazers have no one to really sign that is actually good this year, they should just focus on the new rookies they got.

  23. Ham says:

    If these players don’t want to be on your team, let them move on. Why have issues like the Magic are having? I really don’t get it. If Gordon and or Batum want’s to go to whomever, sign and trade at the very least. But to retain them despite them having no desire to play in that organization is just asking for trouble.

    • lsjogren says:

      Agree. It’s prudent for Portland to play hardball up to a point, but if Batum really would rather play in Minn. then matching a Minn offer leaves everyone a loser. Minny doesn’t get the player they’re after, Batum doesn’t get to play where he wants, and Blazers get stuck with an overpaid player who wants to be somewhere else.

      A sign and trade is the right answer.

    • D Lion says:

      Having NO desire? All along he’s been saying things like he’s 99% sure the Blazers will match offers. Then in the past couple weeks, he also became interested in teams such as Toronto. But he later made it clear that the decision was solely between Minnesota and Portland. Portland wouldn’t have even been in the conversation at that point if Batum had “no desire” to play there. It’s understandable that, after a season where you 1) lose your best player before the season starts, 2) get forced to play out of position (at SG), 3) go through all the trade deadline drama that Portland did, and 4) have your team go from being a predicted contender to a lottery pick recipient, you might be a little confused and unhappy. But based on things he has said, I believe that he likes playing in Portland, even if he has a little crush on Minnesota right now.

  24. Ken says:

    I’m a lifelong Portland fan and I like Batum a lot, but we need to let him go. We are rebuilding anyway, and like the above post says, “…someone who probably never makes an All-Star team.” This is valuable cap space we can use. The only way we should keep him is if we could get a trade in the works for some very good draft picks.

    Batum isn’t worth $11.25m.

    • Jeff says:

      Word is, next year will be a much weaker draft and the wolves with batum will probably be a middle of the road draft pick.

  25. Robert says:

    To say he never makes an all-star team out west is stepping out on a major limb… After KD the 3 position is not exactly loaded in the West. A guy who can put up 16 to 18 a night and play all first or second team defense on a playoff team (both of which he has the ability to do) is going to get him a lot of votes within the league. He’s of the same mold of Deng and Iggy and they were both all-stars last season. Plus at 23 his upside is still huge.