Portland Trail Blazers: Where Do They Stand?
NBA fans have many thanks to give after the players and owners struck a new collective bargaining agreement early Saturday morning. The tentative deal broke a lockout that lasted nearly five months, salvaging 66 games of the season and tipping the season off on Christmas day.
With the Brave New NBA around the corner, certain teams will have to rethink the way they do business. A much more restrictive cap leaves less wiggle room for teams that have done things a particular way in the past. One team that comes to mind is the Portland Trail Blazers and their tendency to outspend competitors.
They've (foolishly) been through two GM's in the past two seasons, even though both have been stockpiling talent during that period and have yet to find a successor.
As the search to replace Richard Cho continues, the new GM will have to wade through a talented but plagued roster if they hope to avoid that new steep luxury tax.
In the wake of another injury-plagued and underwhelming season, the Trail Blazers appear to have their work cut out for them.
Use Amnesty Clause on Brandon Roy
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As hard as this is to say, Brandon Roy will likely never be the player he once was. That doesn't mean he can't be productive, but he certainly won't be the star he was just a few years earlier. So, why pay someone that will likely be a sixth man star money?
The Blazers can live without Roy, and have proven that with the acquisition of Gerald Wallace, the emergence of Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum and the trade for Raymond Felton. If Oden can stay healthy, which is like hoping a solar eclipse will happen tomorrow, the Blazers have a very formidable starting line.
It is a sad way to close the chapter for the Roy era, after it started so well and looked incredibly promising. Aldridge has risen to the challenge of being the go-to guy, and the supporting cast came through down the stretch of the season.
Roy's contract isn't the only issue, though.
There Are Other Overpaid Players
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Gerald Wallace: $10.7 million
Wallace is a bit out of place in this slow, grind-it-out style of offense that Nate McMillan runs. He isn't a great shooter, but can be very valuable in the roll of playing that swing forward spot. If Wallace can stay healthy, the Blazers have a very solid player at the three spot with great versatility, and if he can figure out how to be more efficient in the half court, Wallace will be a nice second option.
Marcus Camby: $9.3 million
Camby will likely come off the bench if Oden can stay healthy, but he is a good insurance policy and can still play the game at a very high level for his age. The shortened season should be a benefit to a big man that relies on his athletic ability, and for someone that has struggled to stay healthy for several years.
Wesley Matthew: $6.1 million
Matthew's contract is almost reasonable, but he is due to make more money each year until his contract runs out. Unless he really evolves into a legit threat at the two spot the salary seems to be a bit steep.
Finding a GM
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In 2010 the Blazers made the mistake of firing Kevin Pritchard, who is somewhat of a draft genius, the man turned Tyrus Thomas and Randy Foye into LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy (IN THE SAME DRAFT, probably the best draft day trades ever).
Richard Cho was a very capable replacement for Pritchard, who rolled the dice at the deadline by trading spare parts and an unprotected first-round pick for Gerald Wallace. The job he did wasn't good enough either, though, and Larry Miller fired Cho just one year after Pritchard was.
For a team that consistently had solid drafts and shrewd management of the roster, my mind is still blown at the decision to let Pritchard and Cho go.
So, who can replace them?
There were rumblings of Portland looking to bring Geoff Petrie back, but little has come of that as well.
For a team that has some serious moves to make, little action has happened in the way of bringing in a replacement.
Perhaps Miller and Paul Allen can just apologize to Pritchard and bring back the man that helped this franchise make a complete 180. Just a thought.
What Does It All Mean?
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After several disappointing seasons and multiple first-round exits, the Blazers may have already peaked. The promise of Aldridge and Roy had them poised for excellence, but as time unfolded Aldridge was slow to progress while Roy carried the load. Just as Aldridge began to progress this season, Roy had begun regressing due to injury.
The Blazers still have one of the deepest benches in the league and this team certainly isn't done. I do have a hard time believing they will be much more than a playoff team slotted somewhere between the fourth and eighth seed, though.
Perhaps the Blazers defy all odds, though. If Aldridge continues to look like a top 10 post player and Roy has a renaissance by pulling a Grant Hill and returning to nearly old form this team could be a real threat. Above all, the Blazers need to be mostly healthy for the season.
If Portland had the training staff the Suns had, we might be talking about them as a contender as opposed to a team looking to stay in the playoff hunt.
Portland is still a team that could be the next Oklahoma City, but I remember calling the Thunder a few years back the next Portland as Durant began to emerge. The Blazers future is uncertain and perhaps not as bright as it once was, but it doesn't mean they can't surprise a lot of people this season.