Don't get me wrong, I am very much engaged on the current iteration of the Blazer team. I think they young starting lineup is fun to watch, and I am looking forward to seeing what, if anything, Barton, Freeland, Leonard, Claver and the rest of the young players on the bench can do this season.
But, after the loss to the Pistons, I am not really putting too much hope in making the playoffs in a STACKED Western Conference THIS year.
Absent many trade possibilities for the off-season (Lillard and Aldridge = untouchable, Batum trades unlikely due to contract and potential, and Matthews worth more on the team than in trade, little trade value from the bench, and inability to trade 1st round picks for several years), the 2013 off-season is the next big opportunity to improve the team.
Despite not being ready yet, the Blazers are closer putting all the pieces together for a contending team than they have been since Roy got injured before the 2010 playoffs. There are just a few holes that need filling in and a little seasoning needed.
Here is GM AJB2's grand plan to return the long-lost Blazers to contention this off-season.
1. Draft-Day Trade for Marcin Gortat
Leonard has potential but big man defense has been probably our second biggest liability this year. Point guard defense has been a weakness, but that can be covered up and Lillard should gradually get better. However, big man D is very important and Leonard still won't be quite ready.
Gortat will be an expiring contract and entering the last few years of his prime looking for a big extension. The Suns may look to deal him unless their situation improves.
The deal would start with Freeland and Claver for money purposes, and perhaps they will have a little trade value by the end of the season. Depending on where the picks end up, it may include switching picks (if the Suns are a few spots lower than us) and other considerations, or maybe just our pick straight up if it is in the 8-11 range.
Gortat would round out a very solid starting lineup and at least bridge the gap until Leonard is ready, and give him someone to learn from. Our second biggest weakness would be solved, now on to the biggest one... The bench...
2. Offer a Big Contract to...
Monta Ellis. I am interested to read your feedback on this one. Would a contract starting at $9-10 million be enough for Ellis? Do you think he would accept a super-sub role? Is he worth that contract for that role?
I am not sure, but off the top of my head he doesn't seem like a great fit for a lot of other cap-space teams.
Ellis could backup both guard positions (and sometimes the three, swinging Matthews over) and play a hefty amount of minutes still. He would single-handedly be better than our entire bench right now, and solve our biggest and our fourth biggest weaknesses; bench play and inside scoring by non-bigs.
3. Add Toughness and Experience
Once the core is set, all we would have to do is fill out the rest of our bench. By doing so, we should take care of our last major weakness; lack of experience/toughness. Some of that will be addressed simply by another year of experience, but some of it needs to be imported.
I really miss the role Przy used to play. Every team needs a guy who will take care of the dirty work. For example, Love was being an all around d***** and getting away with elbows etc. on LMA and Aldridge had to pick up a double foul and technical himself. There should be someone to take care of that so the star doesn't have to.
Depending on if he can prove himself this year, I like Kenyon Martin for that role. He played well enough last year, and would add a little fight to the Portland frontline. Not that we want a lot of that type of player, but I think one is good.
DeShawn Stevenson could play a similar role as a guard.
4. Round out the Bench
I wouldn't mind bringing back Price and Jeffries, and perhaps Pavlovic. A defensive-minded wing who can hit open shots would be valuable, and those are a dime-a-dozen so shouldn't be hard to get one for the minimum.
So the roster going in to next season would look something like this:
That looks like a home-court team to me. What are the holes on this team? Would it be possible to assemble? What would you do?