Disaster Plan for Fixing the Portland Trail Blazers' Bench
The Portland Trail Blazers have surprised many with their play this season.
Damian Lillard has been a revelation at the point guard position and is an early season shoo-in for Rookie of the Year.
LaMarcus Aldridge continues to impress with his overall game and is inching his way towards All-NBA consideration.
Nicolas Batum has finally showed the promise that all Portland fans have been hoping for and could be headed towards an All-Star berth at some point.
This team has certainly impressed and nearing the mid-point of the season, are a .500 ballclub.
That being said, the Trail Blazers have perhaps the worst bench in a decade. This has forced their starters to play ridiculous minutes and has particularly hurt their efforts near the end of games when the starters are gassed.
Here is a disaster plan to fix the worst bench in the league.
Wait It out This Year
While making a move this season certainly isn't out of the question, it doesn't appear likely. The Blazers were expecting this season to be a rebuilding one, and their better than expected play is clearly a bonus. Nobody thought this team was nearing a playoff berth this season.
So why try to re-load right now? The fans are still coming to the arena, and excitement for this team hasn't been this good in years.
The foolish thing would be to try to bolster the bench with a scorer or two right now. There is going to be a bidding war out west for the available players, and the Blazers would just end up losing valuable assets like first-round picks.
Additionally, the Blazers don't really have many valuable trade assets. Pretty much the entire starting unit is off limits, and the only player who might be available, J.J. Hickson, is the team's best low post defender.
Draft a Dynamic Scorer
The Blazers pretty much need every position for their bench. With the exception of maybe Meyers Leonard, there is no real hope coming from the non-starters.
In a weird sort of way, that makes the draft an easier proposition. Since the Blazers have needs everywhere, there should be someone available to them when they pick, which should be in the late lottery range.
James McAdoo could be available here and would certainly help in a number of ways. He is a scorer near the hoop and provides solid rebounding.
Archie Goodwin from Kentucky also could slip to them; however, there are a lot of teams in the lottery who will be looking for shooting guards this year.
Perhaps the ideal player for the Blazers to pick up is Lehigh's C.J. McCollum.
McCollum is an elite scorer who can get to the hoop easily or nail the jumper. Currently, he is nailing over 51 percent of his three-pointers.
McCollum could be the Blazers' Allen Iverson off of the bench.
Load Up on Cheap Free Agents
When the season ends, the Blazers should have about $10 million-$14 million in cap space, provided they don't exercise the team option for Sasha Pavlovic.
Obviously this seems like a lot of cash, but it really isn't. The team will likely try to re-sign J.J. Hickson if it doesn't deal him before the deadline. Given that Hickson only made $4 million this year, he should be due for a hefty raise. At the very least, that figure should double.
So if we are starting with $14 million and you cut $8 million out from that, then we are looking at only about $6 million to play around with.
Obviously they can go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players, but the Blazers probably aren't too stoked about spending a ton of cash, given that Brandon Roy is still getting paid upwards of $15 million per season to rehab his knee and play against the Blazers.
There should be some quality bench players available in the Blazers' price range.
C.J. Watson is a solid backup point guard who rarely turns the ball over and provides good range and defense.
Will Bynum is another guy to look at. He is a fantastic scorer with good court vision and nice range.
Wesley Johnson and Austin Daye are both high draft picks who have had disappointing careers thus far but each provide offense. Additionally, each would come cheap and potentially work for single year contracts.
Getting a big man off the bench is a lot less of a priority. Meyers Leonard still is developing, and Jared Jeffries can at least provide six fouls.
The biggest priority is getting athletic swingmen and at least one solid backup point guard.
If All Else Fails, Take a Run at Tyreke Evans
Let's say the Blazers follow the first few steps of this round map. They played it cool this year, drafted C.J. McCollum and signed Austin Daye and C.J. Watson.
This would give this team a dynamic young scorer off the bench in McCollum, a stretch four in Daye and a backup point guard in Watson.
If the Blazers kept Hickson, that would mean they would have a pretty solid rotation with youth and potential on their side. They would likely be a team on the verge of a playoff berth.
However, if any of these moves fell through, they would find themselves in a serious mess again.
That's why, if all else fails, they should consider taking a run at Tyreke Evans.
Evans is a truly gifted scorer. He can get to the hoop, create his own shot and has the body to absorb contact and finish.
He hasn't been a good fit in Sacramento. In a lot of ways, he has regressed since his Rookie of the Year first season.
But the talent is still there, and the guy is still only in his early 20s. There is still plenty of time for him to turn back into the player he was.
The problem with Evans is that he doesn't really have a set position. He is kind of a combo guard but needs the ball in his hands in order to do anything.
In a starting unit, that is a problem. But off the bench, he could be a revelation.
There is a problem with Evans. He is technically a restricted free agent, and the Kings would have the right to match other offers.
Additionally, the Kings could choose to trade him before the deadline, and then he could be re-signed by his own team.
But with the likely sale of the Kings to a Seattle group and their likely relocation, the front office is probably going to be in a holding pattern this year.
This could allow Portland to swoop in during the offseason and land him, provided it is unable to find a more sensible approach.
The question is, how much is Evans going to be worth? His qualifying offer for next year is upwards of $6 million, but a long-term deal would probably be structured differently.
This is a gamble, but one that could net the Blazers the kind of sixth man who could propel them into the next level.
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