As the season comes to a close this week, the Portland Trail Blazers' attention turns toward improving their team. While they fell just short of the playoffs this season, the goal this offseason will be doing whatever it takes to put together a playoff-caliber team.
Some cap flexibility and a draft pick should give the Blazers opportunities to get better. This team isn't far away from competing at the next level.
Here are the biggest issues that the Blazers must address as they head into the offseason.
The Blazers' roster isn't filled with bad individual defenders, but the team defense hasn't been up to par this season. On the year, Portland is giving up 100.6 points per game, which ranks 10th overall in the league. While that number isn't terrible, the team has allowed the second-highest shooting percentage for opponents at 47.4 percent per night.
The Blazers are giving up way too many easy buckets, whether layups, dunks or open jumpers. Their team defense has been subpar as they've often failed to communicate. Portland's lack of having a true center also hurts its defense.
Throughout the year, Portland has relied on J.J. Hickson as its starting center. The 6'9", 242-pound natural power forward has done a serviceable job, averaging a double-double with 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per night.
While Hickson has been productive, the Blazers need a true center to improve their play on both ends of the court.
In the offseason, the Blazers need to either find a center via free agency or turn to Meyers Leonard. The rookie has shown some potential during his first season, but he lacks the consistency and aggressiveness needed to be the starter.
With Leonard averaging 5.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, the Blazers would need him to take a big leap in year two.
It's safe to say the Blazers have the least productive bench of any team. The Blazers bench is averaging a league-worst 18.4 points per game. They aren't even close to the Indiana Pacers, who have the second-worst bench with 26.1 points per game. While the scoring is a major issue, the Blazers are also last in minutes, rebounds and assists.
Since joining the team just before the trade deadline, Eric Maynor has been the best player off the bench. Maynor and Meyers Leonard are the only players on the bench averaging over five points per game.
This summer, the Blazers need to address their bench by adding some solid role players.
This season, the Blazers have been way too reliant on their best players to put up big scoring numbers. Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are averaging 69.1 points per game. That equates to 70.7 percent of the Blazers' nightly average for points.
The Blazers can't afford one of their top scorers to have a bad game.
The team doesn't have enough players who can pick up the slack. By adding some better scorers, the Blazers would have a more balanced and dangerous team. It would take pressure off point guard Lillard by giving him more options on the offensive end.
The Blazers have overachieved this season, mostly because of Lillard's play. The improvements have been great, but the team is jelling around its first-year point guard.
The adjustment hasn't always been easy for Aldridge and Batum. Both players are getting more shots this season, averaging a combined 29.1 field-goal attempts per night, but both are shooting a lower percentage from the field than last season.
Another year with the new, star point guard should help the entire team get more comfortable with their roles. The chemistry should be helped by the development of Lillard, who should have a better understanding of the league.