Finding Solutions to the Blazers Big Problem

The Blazers have a singular clear and pressing need in the upcoming free agent kerfuffle; NBA calibre talent in the front-court, preferably taller than 6’6 and heavier than Chris Johnson. With this in mind I’ve put together a list of reasonably priced free agents who have either been connected to the Blazers in the past few days, previously played in Portland or that just make sense. There are at least a couple that the Blazers wouldn’t be able to afford without a Brandon Roy amnesty but most will be gettable either way.

Carl Landry     
Full MLE 28 6’9 250 pounds

Second round pick in 2007 out of Purdue. Known for his toughness after playing in a game three weeks after being shot in the leg and tying a career high the game after leaving half his teeth in Dirk’s elbow. Considered more of an offensive weapon than a defensive one, he has been an efficient scorer since entering the NBA but is a sub-par rebounder and has regressed across the board since being traded away from Houston during the 09/10 season.

Glen Davis
Full MLE 25 6’9 290 pounds

Celtics second round pick in 2007. Davis has earned his ‘Big Baby’ nickname by remaining rotund during his four years in the league, crying courtside and showing a general lack of maturity on and off court. Set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks last season.

Reggie Evans 
Mini MLE/BAE 31 6’8 245 pounds

Went undrafted after playing college ball for the University of Iowa and has since played for four teams during his nine-year NBA career. Evans is one of the league’s best rebounders but is ineffective offensively. Type of player who thrives doing the dirty work under the boards and is a likely fan favourite wherever he goes however doesn’t allow for the type of frontcourt flexibility some of the other available bigs would.

Dante Cunningham 
Mini MLE/BAE 24 6’8 230 pounds

2009 Blazers draft pick who was moved to Charlotte in the Crash trade. Dante struggled offensively last season after having a very solid rookie campaign. Transitioned to playing more SF in Charlotte, with mixed results. Has an effective mid-range jumper which he relies on heavily and is a mobile and aggressive defender. At his rookie level of production he would be worth bringing back but his struggles last season have to lead to questions about where he fits in an NBA rotation, if he does at all. Another consideration is that Dante is a restricted free agent, which means any offer could be matched by Charlotte, if they’re motivated to hang onto him.

Josh McRoberts      
Mini MLE/BAE 24 6’10 240 pounds

Second round Blazers draft pick in 2007 who has steadily improved since being traded to the Pacers. McRoberts was a highly rated college recruit who has almost ideal physical tools for an NBA power forward. He started to put those to use last season; finishing well around the rim, rebounding effectively and displaying the passing touch that helped make him a highly touted prospect. Possibly the best value proposition out there for the Blazers, assuming another team doesn’t overpay hoping his skillset will transfer to a larger role. Seems to be flying under the radar so far.

Chuck Hayes  
Full MLE 28 6’6 240 pounds

Technically doesn’t meet the height requirement for this post but since going undrafted in 2005 Chuck has carved out a niche for himself as the NBA’s shortest elite post defender. Last season was a career year for the Chuckwagon as he added offensive efficiency and solid passing out of the post to his largely defensive skillset. Hayes would form an effective tandem with LA but is another non-shooting big man and would likely cost the full MLE after his performance last year.

Kwame Brown  
Mini MLE/BAE 29 6’11 270 pounds

Noted draft bust who remade himself as an effective role player in Charlotte last season. Brown is one of the few pure center free agents available in the Blazers’ price range.

Joel Przybilla   
Vet Min 32  7’1 255 pounds

The Blazers’ enforcer for most of the past seven seasons, Przy was traded to the Bobcats at the last trade deadline. He struggled to come back after rupturing his patella tendon not once but twice and was far less effective last season than any other point in his tenure with the Blazers. If he can regain his health and form, Przy could be cheap insurance at a position where the Blazers badly need it.

Jeff Foster 
Mini MLE/BAE 34 6’11 240 pounds

Foster is a defensive role playing big man who has played his entire career in Indiana. Known as an elite rebounder and post defender, his offensive efficiency has fallen off in recent years. Primarily plays center for the Pacers but is capable of playing minutes at power forward, which would allow the Blazers to play him in a number of lineups.

Jeff Pendergraph      
Min 24 6’11 230 pounds

The other Blazers big man pick in the 2009 draft, Pendergraph has been out since preseason last year with (gasp) a knee injury. Showed incredibly offensive efficiency coupled with horrendous defensive fundamentals as a rookie. Has the frame and the desire to become a decent small minute backup big capable of playing both post positions. Worth a look as cheap as he’d likely come.

The Numbers

I’ve compiled a bunch of standard box score, advanced, shooting and situational numbers that break down production on a per game and per possession basis (with a couple of logical per minute stats thrown in).

Most of these numbers are self explanatory; the box score and shooting efficiency numbers everyone will be familiar with and the per possession stuff includes rankings to help compare and contrast production. The only numbers that may be a bit tough to decipher are the advanced stats which turn raw box score stats in percentages and in a couple of cases a single number designed to encapsulate all production (Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Win Shares (OWS, DWS, WS/48)). To help provide context I thought I’d  mention what reasonable expectations for these numbers should be. Any terms that don’t make sense will be explained here.

  • League average TS% is approximately 53% most seasons, give or take a couple of percentage points. Under 50% = very inefficient. Over 60% = very efficient.
  • Anything over 10% in ORB% is good, 15% is considered elite.
  • 20% is a good cut off for DRB%. For reference, LA was at 17.2% in 10/11 while Camby almost led the league at 35.2%
  • Over 20% in TRB% is elite, under 15% less than ideal for a big.
  • Anything close to or under 10% in TOV% is acceptable, anything 15% or over not so much
  • I considered not including STL% seeing as we’re looking at big men, most of whom seem to fall in the 1-2% range
  • Over 5% in BLK% is elite, under 2% is lacklustre
  • League average PER is always 15
  • ORtg over 110 is good, Drtg under 105 is also good
  • OWS/DWS is used more to show the split in production (if you subscribe to this method of measuring performance) while WS/48 gives you a per minute guide. League leaderis in WS/48 usually hover in the 0.250 to 0.300 range.

Note: Pendergraph’s numbers are from the 09/10 season and he was unable to be included in the per possession analysis due to his numbers being unavailable for that season

Standard Box Score and Advanced


For this set of numbers I tried to group the list of ten into those who primarily play power forward vs those who primarily play center, just for the sake of more like for like comparison.Under each player the left hand column shows the % they shot from that area of the floor, the right shows how many times they shot from there per game.

Power Forwards


Per Possession 

These are the famous Synergy situational, per possession stats that anyone who has chatted with me knows I drool over. The following numbers break down the player’s points per possession (PPP) in the left hand column corresponding to each player and then their rank among NBA players on the right. There are a number of DNQs which result from a player either not being in a particular situation enough to qualify for a ranking or just not playing enough overall to compile a decent sample of numbers. For Landry, Dante and Przy, who all changed teams last year, I have used the numbers from the team where they played the most minutes; Sacramento for Landry, Portland for Dante and Przy.




Blazers logically need two types of big man depending on how the rotation plays out. If the Blazers center’s decided to make this the first year in history they stay healthy, an offense first power forward to match with Camby and Greg would make sense. On the other hand, if we lose either Camby or Greg (or…gulp…..both) then we are left with no choice but to play small ball with Crash and Nico at power forward and would only have Chris Johnson to back up LaMarcus at center (yes I’m pretending Earl Barron doesn’t exist, you should too). In that less ideal but (given recent history) more realistic scenario, a big who can defend the post and rebound effectively would be crucial.

To cover all bases I would like to see the Blazers sign two players from this list. With the full MLE this is easier to accomplish but even utilising the mini-MLE and BAE the Blazers could sign a decent rebounding big to plug the hole inside (Foster, Przy or Kwame) and an decent scoring power forward (admittedly this would probably be McBob or bust). Or they could throw all of that out the window and we could just cover all our bases with one versatile, tough, defensive minded vet. All aboard the Chuckwagon!

Too expensive for this post: Nene, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol, Thaddeus Young, Kris Humphries,

Too scrubby for this post: Shelden Williams, Craig Smith, Brian Scalabrine, Vlad Rad, Josh Powell, Jared Jeffries,  Juwan Howard, Brian Cardinal, Ike Diogu, Alexis Ajinca, Hilton Armstrong, Tony Battie, Erick Dampier, Jason Collins, Aaron Gray, Ryan Hollins, Nenad Kristic, DJ Mbenga, Jamaal Magloire, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas


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