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Trade Fodder: Barbosa to Portland?

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A Daily Babble Production

Ah, draft week.  Time for the hype machine to officially crank up another level.  That would be both on the picks themselves and the ever-present abundance of trade rumors.

This, of course, means plenty to babble about for writers who are still processing the idea that we'll be waiting nearly five months before professional basketball players start playing NBA games that count again.

Today's chatter comes courtesy of the findings of ESPN's Chris Broussard, who has learned that the Suns and Blazers are talking about a deal that would send Leandro Barbosa to Portland in exchange for Martell Webster and the 13th pick in the draft.

Label me unsure about this one from the Portland end.

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Barbosa is no doubt an intriguing case.  He has become one of the game's most exciting players with his high-speed style and ability to get to the rim, remain dangerous from the outside and generally create instant offense off the bench.  Barbosa averaged 15.6 points in 29.5 minutes per game this season and put up a true shooting accuracy of 57.5 percent.  He is a fantastic energy guy, and his speed certainly creates its share of easy mismatches.

That being said, Barbosa is not without his share of flaws, and there is also the valid question of what type of fit he would be in Portland.  The 25-year-old isn't a great creator or distributor, and he has yet to demonstrate that he is truly capable of running an offense as a back-up point guard.  It isn't a shock that the Suns have been searching for potential back-ups for Steve Nash of the more traditional point guard variety (T.J. Ford's name has been featured prominently thus far).  At 6-foot-3 and checking in at less than 180 pounds, Barbosa is undersized for a two-guard.  He also has a penchant for streakiness and generally doesn't guard anybody.

Thus come the problems with the fit in Portland.  If the Blazers have any major glaring need, it's finding the long-term solution at the point.  Barbosa isn't likely to give them that solution, but he will only clog up the minutes in the back-court.  Spanish import Rudy Fernandez is expected to be coming to town this year, and Barbosa's presence would only stand to prevent him from taking on a major role immediately as a reserve two behind Brandon Roy.  Meanwhile, it seems fair to wonder how well Barbosa's game would translate to a Portland team that played at the 28th-quickest pace in the basketball last year.  Barbosa's game is predicated on flying up and down on the break, and while his total numbers would assuredly drop in a game with less possessions, one also has to wonder how his personal shooting efficacy would be affected by having to adjust to more of a slow-down, half-court game.  Hard to see the Blazers changing that philosophy for a back-up guard, especially since coach Nate McMillan isn't going anywhere, and the entrance of center Greg Oden to the scene isn't likely to provide the impetus for an upward change in tempo.

Despite all that, it's hard to write the deal off immediately because the vet proposed to be traded for Barbosa hasn't exaclty distinguished himself in the pros.  Martell Webster has yet to prove his worth as the sixth pick of the 2005 draft, but the lanky swingman has taken on an expanded role in each of his first three seasons in the league.  He set career highs in average minutes (28.4), points per game (10.7) field-goal percentage (42.2), three-point percentage (38.8) and rebounds per game (3.9) last season.  None of those numbers are mind-blowing, but it's worth remembering that Webster has played just three seasons in the league (only one for a half-decent team), and he won't turn 22 until mid-December.  He's also 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds with a nice set of athletic tools, and there's still plenty of time for him to develop into a more solid contributor.

In addition to the issue of Webster, the Blazers may want to hold on to their low lottery pick in a deep draft full of legitimate players.  The first goal would be to fix the point guard need, which could be tough with Russell Westbrook expected to be gone and Mario Chalmers a bit of a too-early reach at thirteen.  Texas point guard D.J. Augustin could be available, and if not, the Blazers will have several other solid options to add to the mix outside the point.  An informal poll of several mocks has shown the Blazers projected to take anyone from West Virginia forward Joe Alexander to international center Alexis Ajinca to Kansas swingman Brandon Rush.  Those players could all provide help in the front-court, and they have high potential to become at the very least reputable rotation guys in this league.

In the meantime, the financial side of all this certainly points toward holding off on a deal for Portland.  Webster is owed $3.7 million in 2008-09, and the team can tender him a qualifying offer for a shade over $5 million next summer.  On the other hand, Barbosa is locked in for $27.4 million between now and 2012, a contract that could quickly become a debacle if Barbosa comes to Portland and flounders.  So Portland would likely have to throw in more pieces along with Webster and the draft pick, and they'd be looking at a significant commitment to an occasonally enigmatic player in Barbosa.

Leandro Barbosa has clearly impressed over his four years in Phoenix.  But he might not be the right fit in Portland, and it couldn't hurt the Blazers to save some cap space and give Martell Webster one more shot while making use of a good draft pick in a deep draft.

Here's guessing Kevin Pritchard holds off on this one.