After several promising seasons setback by various injuries, the Portland Trail Blazers appear poised to have a breakout season and cement themselves as a part of the Western Conference elite. With a core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Gerald Wallace and the newly acquired Raymond Felton, as well as major x-factors in Marcus Camby, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, the Blazers have a ton of depth to throw at their opponents.
One thing they don't have, however, is a decent backup power forward. Don't get me wrong, I love Earl Barron as much as the next guy, but he's not going to cut it as the primary reserve on a team contending for a championship. LaMarcus Aldridge proved last season that he is capable of playing major minutes and of carrying the team, but getting somebody to spell him for stretches would really prove beneficial down the stretch.
The last thing Portland wants to do is overwork Aldridge and cause him to break down midway through the season. Now that the point guard of the future situation has been addressed, the Blazers front office needs to find a bench four capable of scoring and rebounding, who'll mesh with the Trail Blazers' current style of play and won't effect the chemistry of the team.
Enter Carl Landry.
Landry is a free agent this summer and will likely be a hot commodity for teams looking to bolster their frontcourt. He's the definition of a hustle player and his grittiness will fit well into Nate McMillan's system. He's surprisingly quick for a power forward, an asset on both offense and defense. In addition, despite being slightly undersized at 6'9" he's a strong, physical player capable of making strong moves in the post and finishing at the rim against larger players.
He's a good teammate and a true team-first player, willing to contribute in whatever role is asked of him, whether he's starting or coming off the bench. Despite not being the most gifted defender he puts in solid effort, always willing to challenge a shot in his vicinity.
Bringing Landry to Portland would give the Blazers the luxury of cutting down L.A.'s minutes and preserving him more for the postseason. It would give them another versatile offensive player capable of scoring in the paint who also has a decent midrange jump shot. Also, the team could play Aldridge at the center and Landry at the four for a smallball lineup that could really get out in transition and take advantage of the league's less athletic teams.
Landry himself believes he would be a good fit for the Trail Blazers, and bringing in a guy whose expressed interest in your team ends well more often than not.
Still, as with any potential free agent signing, there are some issues that the Blazers have to consider before bringing Carl Landry to Rip City.
The Blazers finished 27th in the NBA last season in total rebounds per game, averaging a disappointing 39.3 a contest. Landry, though a persistent offensive rebounder, is not particularly dominant on the glass. In 26 minutes a game for the Hornets last season he only averaged 4.1 boards per game and Portland could really use another player besides Marcus Camby with a knack for hitting the glass hard.
He isn't a particularly good creator on offense and works much better getting fed the ball down low and in scoring position than trying to take his man off the dribble. Though the Blazers could certainly benefit from another post presence one could argue they could also use their free agent money on another playmaker to help Brandon Roy and Raymond Felton in running the offense.
Due to his size, Landry couldn't really play the center position and the Blazers may want to pick up a player like Glen Davis who is capable of playing forward and center given the uncertainty about Greg Oden and the age of Marcus Camby.
There's also the matter of Landry's asking price. The team's current salary situation for 2011-2012 stands at $66 million due to 12 players. They still have to fill out their roster and with a hard cap being a possibility Portland may not have much money to throw at free agents this offseason.
Landry made $3 million last season and while that's not an unreasonable price for a player of his caliber he could potentially get a much more lucrative deal from a team like the Pacers or Bucks. He is one of the more coveted free agent forwards this summer and could easily parlay that into offers that the Blazers couldn't and shouldn't match.
Ultimately, I think that if Landry is willing to sacrifice some money to play for a true contender he'd be well worth signing. He isn't far removed from averaging 18 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 52% from the field. He won't be seeing major minutes, but Landry's an excellent locker room presence, exceptionally durable and would give the Blazers much more frontcourt flexibility than they had last season.
The Blazers can sign a third string center like Aaron Grey or even bring back Chris Johnson who has a ton of potential without cutting much into their cap space while picking up a consummate power forward in Landry.
The addition of Carl Landry could be enough to push the Blazers over the top from playoff team to championship contender and whoever the team's next GM is would be wise to call up Carl the second the lockout ends.