Portland Trail Blazers: 5 Offseason Moves to Make Them Elite Next Season

Wesley HodgesContributor IIIMay 20, 2011

Portland Trail Blazers: 5 Offseason Moves to Make Them Elite Next Season

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    PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 23:  Brandon Roy #7 high fives LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 23, 2011 at the Rose Garden in Port
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    For the past couple seasons, the Trail Blazers have been caught in a difficult position.  They have felt they had the talent and depth to compete for a conference championship and a top four playoff seed.  

    Due to injuries and inconsistency, however, they have become a team that is good enough to make the playoffs as a lower seed, but not good enough to advance past the first round.

    That is not enough for a team with the money of Paul Allen to go along with a talented young core that still has its best years ahead of it.  But what can they do to take that next step towards playing consistently enough, at a high enough level, to be considered an elite team?  Here are a few suggestions.  

1. Match Any Offer Made to Restricted Free Agent Greg Oden

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers dunks over Anthony Randolph #4 of the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on November 20, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Greg Oden epitomizes the bad luck that the Trail Blazers have experienced with a rash of injuries over the past two seasons.  But after putting this much time and effort into helping Oden have a positive NBA career, the Blazers cannot afford to let Oden leave to some other team before giving him this one final opportunity to show that he can stay healthy and be the player they envisioned when they drafted him.

    The truth is that even for all his struggles, Greg Oden is still only 23 years old.  If he gets healthy at this point, he could still have a relatively long and productive NBA career.  He has shown glimpses before of being a center that could start on a championship-caliber NBA team—he compares favorably to any of the remaining starting centers left in the NBA playoffs this year.  One more chance is what he needs.

2. Draft or Sign a Legitimate Backup Point Guard

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies handles the ball against the Butler Bulldogs during the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston,
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    For whatever reason, the Trail Blazers have had terrible luck trying to find someone to fill this position on the team.  Armon Johnson and Patty Mills were both given opportunities last year, and while both impressed from time to time, neither felt like a long-term solution as a backup point guard/future starter when Andre Miller leaves.

    This may be a need that is best addressed through the draft, as it would give the team time to acquire someone who can later grow into the starting role, rather than a current NBA player who would have to play behind Miller for at least next season.  Unless, that is, someone like Chris Paul suddenly becomes available...

3. Get Nate McMillan to Settle on a Consistent Rotation

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    PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 14:  Head coach Nate McMillan of the Portland Trail Blazers during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on January 14, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Trail Blazers 115-111. NOTE TO USER: User ex
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    This is a difficult one, particularly when your team is a revolving door of injured players.  But Nate McMillan needs to figure this one out early so that training camp for next season can be spent on getting players comfortable in their roles rather than trying to figure out who's starting and who's coming off the bench.

    The Blazers have at least six players who are legitimate NBA starters: Miller, Wesley Matthews, Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby; Roy and Oden also qualify when healthy.  

    All that talent and depth means that rotations need to be figured out early, along with the players themselves buying into their respective roles, so that team chemistry and unity can be present.  All the players will benefit from knowing early on what will be expected of them on a nightly basis. 

4. Draft an Impact Player Who Can Provide Frontcourt Depth

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    Donatas Motiejunas
    Donatas MotiejunasHannah Johnston/Getty Images

    There has been a lot of talk about how weak this year's draft is, and how lottery teams not drafting with the first or second picks are out of luck.  There may be some truth to that, but it also usually means that there are a few "steals" waiting to be found further down in the first or early second round who will end up being important rotation players for several teams next season.

    With Marcus Camby nearing the end of his effectiveness as a dominant defensive player in the NBA, coupled with the uncertainty surrounding Greg Oden and his knees, the Blazers would be wise to draft a young center with upside who they can develop to play for them a couple years down the road. 

5. Develop More Creative Schemes on Offense

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    PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 23:  Brandon Roy #7 of the Portland Trail Blazers runs down court after making a shot to overcome a 23 point deficit to defeat the the Dallas Mavericks 84-82 in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoff
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Too many times this past season, and in particular during the first-round series against Dallas, the Blazers looked totally lost on offense, as if they didn't know where the points would be coming from.  With as many talented scorers as they have, this team shouldn't have that problem.

    Three-point shooting was often an issue, as too many possessions ended in long, contested jump shots, with the Blazers seemingly unable to break down the opposing team's defense.  They need to become more active, set more screens, move better without the ball and learn to take shots in the flow of the offense, rather than simply running alternating isolation plays for LaMarcus Aldrige and Brandon Roy.

    If they can do some or all of these things this summer, the Blazers will be looking strong for a shot at a conference championship next season.