5 Options for Rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers Bench This Offseason
The Portland Trail Blazers have figured out a solid core of players to build around with Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge. While Wesley Matthews and J.J. Hickson give the Blazers a competent starting five, the team's bench has been horrific and needs reshaping next season.
With 17.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, the Blazers get the least amount of production from their bench. Acquiring Eric Maynor at the trade deadline was a much-needed move that gives the Blazers a guy who can run the offense with Lillard on the bench, but young players like Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver need to take big steps in their game to regularly contribute in 2013-14.
DeJuan Blair will test free agency this summer after being buried on the San Antonio Spurs' depth chart. Thiago Splitter and Borias Diaw have earned the majority of minutes as Blair has gotten just 13.4 minutes per game.
Blair has seen his minutes drop significantly in the last three games, averaging just 6.7 minutes with .7 points per game. The wide, physical player would benefit from a fresh start with the Blazers. After playing with Tony Parker, Blair would do just fine with Damian Lillard.
Off the bench, Blair could give the Blazers minutes at either power forward or center. It would give them flexibility to allow Meyers Leonard to continue developing without committing too much to another player. If need be, Blair could actually start for the team if Hickson isn't re-signed, and Leonard would be a good option off the bench.
Yes, an option for the Blazers' bench is to bring back Martell Webster. The Blazers' sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft didn't pan out during his five-year tenure in Portland, but has picked up his play for the Washington Wizards.
Webster would be able to give the Blazers minutes at both shooting guard and small forward, and his 6'7" frame allows him to guard either position in addition to contributing on offense. The slasher has also improved his long-range shooting this season with a career-high 45.5 three-point percentage.
The Blazers could definitely use Webster's scoring and shooting ability. The spot-up shooter has upped his ability to drive to the basket, making him even more of a threat. Paired with Damian Lillard, Webster could be a great option to put on the wing.
Toronto Raptors shooting guard Alan Anderson would give the Blazers another scoring option off the bench. The 30-year old Anderson is only in his third NBA season after spending much of the last eight years in various leagues, including the D-League.
Anderson impressed upon his return to the NBA last season and has justified the deal the Raptors gave him. The strong perimeter defender has improved his scoring to become a much more balanced player than earlier in this career.
As a below-average defensive team, the Blazers need all the defensive help they can get. Anderson is worth a contract, despite being an older player.
There would be significant risk by adding DeMarre Carroll, the oft-injured small forward for the Utah Jazz. Despite the heath issues during his career, Carroll has stayed off the injured list this season and produced off the bench. He's played in 57 games and even started in 11 of them.
The active defender brings a ton of energy to the team and would add a lot to the Blazers' defense whenever on the court. While he's mainly a hustle guy, Carroll has improved his offense, shooting an efficient 48.1 percent from the field.
Carroll will likely come cheap because of his reduced minutes in Utah, so he would fit well into the Blazers' budget for next season. The downside of this move would be the pressure put on other players to carry the offensive load.
Re-Signing J.J. Hickson
Re-signing J.J. Hickson is another option that would improve the Blazers' bench. The double-double machine gives the Blazers flexibility at the power forward and center positions, and if he is retained, the Blazers could still bring in a natural starting center or go with Meyers Leonard if he continues to develop.
The biggest question regarding Hickson's future will be the price. After a solid campaign with the Blazers, Hickson could be an attractive piece for a number of other teams. If the Blazers end up having to battle other teams for Hickson, it's unlikely that he is back.
Hickson has been a big part of the Blazers' success, but his game is expendable. His activity on the boards is impressive, but it's not something the Blazers couldn't get from another player. The question here is whether or not it's worth the risk to try and replace Hickson.