Just a couple years ago, the Portland Trail Blazers were one of the most promising teams in basketball and looked to have greatness in their future. The wheels have fallen off, though, and the organization is now looking for a new architect. The answer could be Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, and it's a move Kupchak should welcome.
According to Chris Broussard and Marc Stein of ESPN, sources are reporting that Kupchak is at the top of the Blazers' list when it comes to their search for a new general manager. While it may seem strange for Kupchak to leave a championship contender in L.A. for a struggling franchise, it's probably the smart move to make.
The Blazers are reportedly desperate to land somebody with experience in basketball operations, and Kupchak has plenty of that, as he has been a part of the Lakers' front office for more than 25 years. He took over as the main player personnel executive for Jerry West in 2000, but he has since taken the backseat in that regard to Jim Buss.
Since most seem to think that hiring Mike Brown as the Lakers head coach was Buss' decision, there is a school of thought that Kupchak can be had by another organization if he is given more power. Kupchak molded the Lakers' championship teams in 2009 and 2010 as he traded for Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza and signed Metta World Peace (Ron Artest at the time), so he has shown the ability to build a winning team.
Of course, it helped that he always had Kobe Bryant in the fold, but most consider his deal for Gasol to be one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. If Kupchak can work some of that magic with the Blazers, then it may not take long to turn things around. They have plenty of talent with the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and others.
Ultimately, all signs point to this being the right time to leave the Lakers. If there is a situation where he can become the sole decision-maker, then Kupchak should jump at it. Not only has the owner's son surpassed him in the pecking order, but the Lakers are approaching the downside in terms of contention currently.
Kupchak won't be winning a championship right away with the Blazers, and as much as the name of the game is winning titles, the Lakers may not have any more left in them. Bryant is 33, and Gasol is 31 and possibly on his way out of town following the season. That leaves them with only one long-term prospect in Andrew Bynum, but nobody knows how long his knees will hold up.
It would be a bit extreme to call the Lakers a sinking ship, but at the very least they're a ship that seems likely to be relegated to the dock very soon. Kupchak would have his work cut out for him in Portland, but with a couple high draft picks and some pieces to build around, there's no reason why the Blazers can't be back in playoff contention as soon as next season.
Whether or not Kupchak or Buss are willing to admit it, there has to be at least some tension in the Lakers' front office. Kupchak was mostly responsible for building the Lakers' past two championship teams, yet he was rewarded with essentially a demotion in terms of his importance.
It seems to me that Kupchak needs a new lease on life, and Portland is the perfect place to get just that. Things won't be as glamorous there, but he'll be given some time to build a winner. If his success in Los Angeles is indicative of what he can do in the Pacific Northwest, then Blazers fans will have plenty to cheer about.
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