By DWIGHT JAYNES (@dwightjaynes)
Decision time is near. And it's going to be such a tough call for the Trail Blazers.
I'm hearing today that Portland can get an unprotected first-round pick from Minnesota, along with a package of veteran players with one year left on their contracts (meaning, cap space next summer), in a sign-and-trade for Nic Batum. That's not bad.
But on the other side of the coin -- given the changes Minnesota will have made by the time the season starts -- that pick is probably not going to be in the lottery.
And at the heart of the matter is this: The Portland Trail Blazers are a rebuilding team, whether they want to admit it or not. At this point, do you let go of a player your new general manager called a "cornerstone?" And do you let him go to a team in your own division that you have to play four or five times a season? A team that is already better positioned for the future than you are?
But (and yes, there are so many "buts" in this discussion) Batum at 11.5 million a season is not only an overpayment but it could create a serious salary cap problem that could inhibit this team's growth in the future.
I will say this, if you give Batum that 11.5 million a season, you better make sure that new coach understands that this guy is no longer a player you tell to go stand in the corner. If he's going to make that kind of scratch, he better BE an 11.5 million player and be used like one.
No excuses for him after that. And he better be ready to step up and carry that load. He's still just 23 years old and a big piece of this offer for both Minnesota and Portland is a healthy bet on his future development.
At that salary, it's a gamble for whatever team that ends up with him.