Will the Warriors win 'Sheed sweepstakes?
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Friday, January 30
Updated: January 30
9:22 AM ET

After months of searching, we've finally stumbled across a Rasheed
Wallace trade rumor that makes some sense for the Portland Trail
Blazers.

Rumors were rampant Thursday that the Warriors have been talking to
the Blazers about a trade that would send Wallace to Golden State
for Nick Van Exel and Erick Dampier. The Oregon Live Web site and
the San Francisco Chronicle are reporting similar stories this
morning.

Is there any truth to the rumors? Yes ... and no.

According to one Insider source, the two sides have been talking,
and a Wallace-for-Van Exel-and-Dampier scenario is the best offer
Blazers' GM John Nash has received and something the team is
interested in exploring. However, another source insists nothing
will happen until closer to the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

"Everyone's exploring their options right now," the source told
Insider. "Everyone's talking to everyone. I don't think decisions
will be made until they have to be made. The offers keep getting
sweeter for Rasheed, which means that Nash won't be in any hurry to
pull the trigger."

Why the Blazers would do it

Why are the Blazers so interested? The bottom line is Nash needs to
find a way to keep this team competitive, solve its long-term
salary-cap problems and start changing its image, all at the same
time. That isn't easy, and this is the first trade proposal that
really addresses all three issues.

The Blazers have been looking for a legitimate center ever since
Arvydas Sabonis retired the first time. Dampier has put up all-star
worthy numbers in Golden State this season and could be a long-term
solution in the middle. Dampier has two more years and $17 million
left on his contract, which is pretty reasonable considering the
going rate on big men. Dampier does have an opt out in his contract
after this season, but the Blazers can afford to re-sign him should
he opt out.

Van Exel has only one more year of guaranteed money left on his
deal. The Blazers believe that, on a team competing for the
playoffs, Van Exel can still be an asset. If he instead is a pain in
the butt, like he's been in Golden State, they're free to dump him
anytime and are looking at $12 million of extra cap space in the
summer of 2005.

By pulling the trigger on this trade, the Blazers would reduce their
payroll by almost $25 million next season and should still be
roughly $18 million under the cap in 2005, once Dale Davis, Damon
Stoudamire and Van Exel come off the books. They'll need some of
that money to re-sign Zach Randolph, but either way the Blazers
would remain competitive and get plenty of cap room to work with
after the 2004-05 season.

A lineup of Dampier, Randolph, Darius Miles, Derek Anderson, Van
Exel and Stoudamire should be able to remain competitive in the West
until the Blazers can make more wholesale changes in 2005.
The trade also opens the door to at least one more transaction that
makes sense. Davis has been a huge problem in Portland of late, and
the Blazers are eager to move him. The problem has been the
inability to get a big man in exchange. With Dampier on board, the
team would be free to move Davis to the highest bidder. The Raptors
and Mavericks have shown the most interest in Davis, and if the
Blazers can get back a contract that expires after next season and a
prospect, they'll pull the trigger.

Why the Warriors would do it

The Warriors have as much or more incentive to do the trade than do
the Blazers. Obviously, last summer's trade of Van Exel for Antawn
Jamison and Jiri Welsch has been a disaster. But now they have an
excellent chance to correct the mistake.

If the Warriors ship Van Exel and Dampier for Wallace, they'll be
looking at around $20 million in cap room this summer. That's enough
to make the Warriors instant players in the Kobe Bryant sweepstakes
or give them flexibility to go another route.

The loss of Dampier is a major blow , but the cap flexibility is
more important in the long run. The Warriors haven't been a major
player in the free-agent market for years. This would give Chris
Mullin his first chance to really reshape the team in his image. It
also gives them a chance to give Eric Musselman the type of
defenders he's been begging for.

The Warriors would retain their young core -- Jason Richardson, Mike
Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Mickael Pietrus and Speedy Claxton -- while
having the same cap flexibility as the Nuggets and Jazz.

If Kobe wants to play in Golden State, the Warriors will be free to
move Richardson and get something else valuable in return. If he
doesn't, the team could make a run at a young big like Mehmet Okur,
Kenyon Martin or Stromile Swift. Or the Warriors could make a run at
a few veterans like Vlade Divac and Gary Payton to make a big-time
playoff run. They could try to re-sign Wallace to a more reasonable
contract or work out a sign and trade with a team that wants him.
And the move gives them plenty of room to re-sign Adonal Foyle, if
they choose.

The bottom line in Golden State is management is willing to do just
about anything to have those options. The team has been out of the
playoffs longer than any other team in the league and is ready for
that to change. The Warriors want to keep their young core intact,
but after that they're open to anything that gives them the freedom
to choose their own course.

That makes this trade a slam dunk for Golden State.

Van Exel gone no matter what?

Van Exel's agent, Tony Dutt, put the odds at 60-40 that Van Exel
will be moved before Feb. 19 trade deadline.

"My gut feeling is that they're going to try to make a deal that
makes sense for Nick and makes sense for them," Dutt told the San
Francisco Chronicle. Dutt is in Houston right now with Van Exel, who
left the team early this week to deal with a "family matter."
According to the Chronicle, Warriors GM Garry St. Jean and Warriors
president Robert Rowell are believed to have met with the Blazers'
Nash on Saturday.

Dutt told the paper that "there is no question" the Blazers were one
of the teams talking trade with the Warriors.

"You get so much going on at this time of the year that there is a
lot of unknown yet," Dutt said. "Everybody is talking to everybody.
It's no different than any other year. I think you can sit there and
say, 'Yes, there will be some moves this year.' At the same time, at
the end of the day, how many of them get done?"