On the surface, it would appear that the Blazers loss more than the gained during last night’s NBA Draft. Talking with Blazers staff though, it would appear they think the opposite. Neil Olshey repeatedly said he was not in a rebuilding mode, but it definitely appears that way on the surface and looking from the outside in. In some respect though, how much farther could the Blazers have gone, even if they were 100% healthy?
As much as Blazer fans would like to believe it, we were not close to a championship run. We had a decent playoff run opportunity until Wesley Matthews was injured. A last ditch effort by Olshey to bring in a couple more guys was no more than a white flag waving in the wind for the season, but hopeful enough to maybe sell a few more playoff tickets without affecting the future cap.
With the recent rush of ballers into the league and a steady stream of teams straying away from historical play, teams are delving deeper into getting away from a 5-man, position centric system. For me, I see teams starting to move to more open play, like obvious teams of Golden State and Cleveland which are prime examples of not specifically having a set PG, SG, SF, PF, & C. Instead, they look for consistent depth and all-around players that can play the court instead of a position.
During the draft, by the end of the night, the Blazers FOR SURE, lost 2 things…
- Nicolas Batum. He was traded to the Charlotte Hornets and our old friend Rich Cho. Blazer fans should be able to admit they overpaid for him a few years back in a bidding war with Minnesota. His last two years in a Blazer uniform have been inconsistent and as much as Portlanders love a “nice” guy, I think it is time to move on. I’d rather have a championship guy then a nice guy.
- Steve Blake. In the past I’ve never been a huge fan of Steve Blake, but one thing is for sure, he is an honorable player with a decent set of skills. His salary was small and the return on him could have been decent, especially as a serviceable backup… but the NBA is a business just like anything else, and no matter what or who you are, everyone has a price. Steve will make a decent backup for someone else and it came down to making the numbers work on a trade that Olshey wanted to make. No hard feelings Blake, you will always be like here in Portland.
So what did the Blazers GAIN through last night’s draft…
- Gerald Henderson. A serviceable shooting guard veteran and decent defender. I don’t foresee Henderson fitting into the long-term plans of the Blazers… only because I don’t think he fits any of the molds that we really need. Don’t county out CJ McCollum and his OUTSTANDING run during the playoffs. He has proven he can play and we’ve seen flashes of brilliance. If nothing else, I look at Henderson as a tradable piece later on in the offseason or trade deadline with a decent $6 Million contract.
- Noah Vonley. At 19 years old, he is obviously young, but that sort of fits with the current group of Blazers in Meyers Leonard, CJ, Lillard, and others on the roster. Think of him as a possible younger and cheaper version of Batum. He shows promise, but at such a young age, don’t expect him to make an immediate impact on the roster. I still look for the Blazers to look outside more for trades and acquire a more “now-ready” SF to take the place of Batum.
- Mason Plumlee. A center is always good to have, especially as an insurance policy if Lopez and contract negotiations go opposite directions. At 25 years old, he is not a rookie, which is especially important at the Center position. Whether he plays alongside Lopez or takes his place is yet to be seen, but Plumlee is a decent player that will give the Blazers a little depth down low in the post when we need him.
- Pat Connaghton. A shooting guard out of Notre Dame with the length of a small forward. Not a key aspect of starting role, but could prove to be a decent off the bench performer. For a second-rounder, you cannot expect too much in the first couple years from him, but growth potential is there if he puts the time and effort into his own game.
- Daniel Diez. Small forward from Spain. Don’t expect to see him anytime soon. As Neil Olshey said during interviews last night, it is nice to have a least a piece for the future overseas and is seen as an “asset” that can be used in a variety of different ways.
- Cap space. Olshey saved a few million here and few million there. There are some decisions yet to be made though. Chris Kaman, Allen Crabbe, Tim Frazier, and Joel Freeland. Then there are obvious wants but not guaranteed contracts of Aldridge, Matthews, and Lopez. These three players will depend a lot of that open cap. Is it worth it to overpay for them?
I know Portland, Aldridge is a “nice” guy and so is Matthews and Lopez… but are you will take to take another lackluster season with all 3? Or do you look outside to see what the possibilities are with someone new, someone would is literally a championship contender, someone who has been there at the big game… Or is Portland content with just making the playoffs every year. For me, just getting to the playoffs is not my cup of tea. I’m ready to take a risk, go out for the big names, and rebuild for a championship run.
Matt Brown – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
Born and raised in Portland Oregon, Matt Brown is Sports & Business Management Consultant with experience working with everyone from small and local Mom & Pop shops to working with professional sport league’s on business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge on the business side of sports, a side that many fans don’t get to see too often when they watch their favorite team battle each week.