Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
The Portland Trail Blazers upgraded through acquisitions and letting players go.
The Trail Blazers let go of a slightly underwhelming point guard in Raymond Felton. Felton was able to hold the post as the starter after Brandon Roy announced he wouldn't play in 2011-12 due to knee problems.
Felton was unimpressive running the point, but it's hard to expect much from someone who has generally had a mediocre career as a starter.
They also let go of Jamal Crawford and Hasheem Thabeet. Crawford was one of their major free-agent acquisitions in the 2011 offseason. He was supposed to be a major scorer off the bench but ended up further showing his age.
Despite scoring 14 points per game, Crawford's field-goal percentage dropped 3.7 percent to 38.7 percent and his three-point shooting figure dropped 3.3 percent to 30.8 percent (four percent below his career mark).
Portland let the Oklahoma City Thunder have a crack at Thabeet—the failed No. 2 pick of the 2009 draft. Playing for his third team, Thabeet found his way into significant playing time when he was traded to Portland.
The UConn product played more than 10 minutes in each of the last five games of the season, starting three. That was the first time he started since the Memphis Grizzlies tested him out in 2009, and then, threw their hands in the air in disgust.
Having wrung their hands of the 7'3" Tanzanian center, the Trail Blazers drafted Meyers Leonard to place someone respectable up front. Leonard has all of the physical traits a team wants in a center—size, length and speed. Leonard can do damage on offense and works fairly well on the boards.
Also, in the draft, the Trail Blazers filled another major hole by drafting Damian Lillard. Lillard isn't a prototypical point guard. He scored more often than he sought to pass while at Weber State. Still, he's a very efficient point man who is capable of making plays for others. His scoring ability is unquestionable.
Re-signing Nic Batum was a major move. The Trail Blazers have seen the type of scoring potential Batum has. He'll likely step it up in the next couple years as he continues to grow his shooting repertoire.
Re-signing J.J. Hickson assures that they'll have some degree of depth up front. Hickson is a very capable player all-around. He'll become more effective than he was in the last couple years as the Trail Blazers don't need to use him as much as the Cleveland Cavaliers did.
Terry Stotts was an interesting hire. I had expected them to stick with Kaleb Canales, who had a calming effect after he became the interim head coach.
Despite Stotts' unimpressive record as head coach (110-168), he's received plaudits in Portland. As Joe Freeman of The Oregonian noted via Twitter, LaMarcus Aldridge praised Stotts' offensive prowess.
Stotts can be glad that he has the Trail Blazers' biggest star on his good side already. That's just what Stotts needs to start out well. If he can get things rolling on offense like he did in Dallas, then, this will be a very competitive bunch.