Portland Trail Blazers and 5 Other Teams Still 1 Big Move Away from Contention
It’s been a busy NBA offseason for a lot of teams, but not busy enough for others.
The Portland Trail Blazers are one of the teams that have not been active enough. Star player LaMarcus Aldridge needs an improved supporting cast to keep him happy and, ultimately, to keep him in Portland.
The Blazers are one of a half-dozen or so teams with most of the pieces in place to be a title contender. With one big move, these six teams can push themselves to the forefront of the championship conversation.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers were very close to making the move they needed to become a contender. Adding Roy Hibbert—while retaining Nicolas Batum—would have made Portland an elite team.
(That might sound like two moves, but re-signing your own free agent doesn’t count as a move to me.)
Pairing a top-five center with LaMarcus Aldridge gives the Blazers one of the league’s best frontcourts. Having that sort of potency down low will enable young point guard Damian Lillard to adapt and grow into a productive NBA player without rushing him.
The Houston Rockets may have made their one big move. They need an elite point guard to unite a young and talented roster.
If Jeremy Lin is able to recapture the magic he found for a few fleeting moments in New York, the Rockets have cashed in (via ESPN).
Adding a gritty, do-everything type of player to mentor the likes of Terrence Jones and Royce White could go a long way.
A guy like Jeff Green—who missed a season because of heart surgery—could show these youngsters what kind of drive it takes to put a team over the top.
With Dwight Howard looking less and less like a reality in Brooklyn, the Nets are still in need of a big splash to turn Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Co. into a contender.
There isn’t a whole lot of cap space, nor are there a whole lot of tradeable assets on the roster. Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace are the best trade chips. That gives the Nets a core of Williams, Johnson and Kris Humphries to build around.
Adding a score-first mentality to this group could push Brooklyn over the top. With Johnson and Williams as secondary-scoring options and Humphries left doing the dirty work, the transition to the Barclays Center will be much easier.
A trade for Rudy Gay would put the Nets on the right track.
The Sacramento Kings are a team full of promising offensive talent. The Kings need to figure out how to keep other teams from outscoring them.
The Kings have to look into adding a defensive-oriented player to influence the rest of the roster. Putting a headstrong defender on the team can convince a team full of youth and talent that defense really is what wins championships. Just think of what Tyson Chandler did for the Dallas Mavericks.
Chandler won’t be available, but Mickael Pietrus—who can guard several positions and doesn't need the ball to produce—could adjust the attitude of a young team like the Kings.
Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and a roster full of talented wings is close to getting over the hump. That final push will come from a player who isn’t afraid to push people around in the paint.
Love, for all his talents, is not a premier defender. The Timberwolves need a big man who can defend.
With as many talented wing players as Minnesota has—Wesley Johnson, Derrick Williams, Chase Budinger, Malcolm Lee, Martell Webster—there is not a shortage of tradeable assets.
Blake Griffin will never be the go-to guy on an NBA championship team.
Some would argue Chris Paul is. That may be true.
Still, the Clippers need more than Paul and Griffin to make it through the Western Conference and contend for titles.
Paul is a fabulous defender; Griffin is not. DeAndre Jordan and Kenyon Martin were supposed to take the burden off Griffin defensively, but were unable to do so at a high level consistently.
Adding a big man who can protect the paint and be efficient offensively is a necessity for the Clippers to forge forward. Bring a Chris Kaman-type player back into the fold should be on the Clippers’ to-do list this offseason.