Seven years ago, the Blazers began a rebuild project. A project that, had it not been derailed by injuries, would have the Blazers as serious contenders right now. With the recent trades and the firing of Nate McMillian, it is obvious another rebuild is upon us; so let's take a look back and see what we can learn from the past.
To me, the rebuild began on March 2nd, 2005 when the Blazers fired Maurice Cheeks and named Kevin Pritchard interim head coach. As the change happened after the trade deadline, the blazers could not unload vets, but rather had to just play the likes of Sebastion Telfair and Travis Outlaw heavy minutes. The Blazer preceded to finish the season 5-22 and had a total of 27 wins during the season.
After the season, the Blazers had the contracts of Damon Stoudamire, Sharif Abdul-Rahim and Nick Van Excel all come off the books. Despite this, they still had a couple of bad contracts including paying the oft injured Theo Ratliff 12 million dollars a year for many more years and Darius Miles 8 million a year; both signed the offseason before. In addition to these contracts there was the malcontent Ruben Patterson making over 5 million a year, Derrick Anderson making 9 million a year and the star, Zach Randolph. As you can plainly see, that is quite a few bad contracts. In my view that is one mistake to learn from: don't have bad contracts. Looking at our roster, the only bad contract I can see is that of Wesley Matthews, and that is not that bad.
The second mistake came in the draft. The Blazers had the third pick in the draft with point guards Deron Williams and Chris Paul on the board as well as wing Martell Webster. The Blazers front office felt they had their point guard of the future in Sebastion Telfair and thus traded down to get Martell Webster And Linus Kleiza; a trade that will no doubt go down as one of the worst in team history. It did however teach us something: take the best player available instead of need, especially when the players you already have are unproven. With potentially two lottery picks this year, the lessons learned in the 2005 NBA draft must not be forgotten.
During the next season the Blazers brought in Nate McMillian and managed to unload the contract of Ruben Patterson for expirings while developing young talent at the expense of wins. This results in a 21 win season and the fourth pick. The blazers traded that pick and Victor Kryapa for the second pick which became LaMarcus Aldridge. To me, this signaled that the Blazers learned from the previous year and the the best player available as aposed to need, as LaMarcus played the same position as their bast player at the time: Zach Randolph. The Blazers also moved on from Telfair on traded him and other pieces for the rights to Brandon Roy. While I definitely do not regret getting Brandon Roy, his long history of injuries on college served as a red flag to many teams. I feel as though this is another important lesson: pay attention to a player's injury history. Another lesson learned in this draft is to not cave to fan pressure. I am sure many remember the "Draft the Stache" campaign.
The next offseason, the Blazers got Greg Oden. If I could go back in time, I would still honk once. Moving on, I believe the Blazers made a mistake for two consecutive seasons starting with this one. According to reports, the Blazers could have obtained Devin Harris for Travis Outlaw, Jarret Jack and Channing Frye. While this trade may or may not have been on the table, it does give an indicated of where the value of the players at the time. The following offseason, the Blazers elected not to use RLEC. Rudy was once considered untradable, then two years later was filler in a trade to get Raymond Felton. A season ago Wesley Matthews was untouchable, and this year he as benched and shopped heavily at the deadline. Holding onto players for too long was another mistake in the previous rebuild.
The following offseason had Raef Lafrentz's contract come off the books. The Blazers decided to make a run at Turkoglu based on a good playoff run. This is never a good idea and thankfully, Hedo saved us form ourselves. Then, after ruining the Jazz cap space, the Blazers settled on Andre Miller. Miller and Roy were not a perfect fit but over time, they learned to work together, however, injuries prevented the tandem from truly discovering their chemistry. While they did come to play well together, it took time and was not pretty early on. Bringing in guys who are a better fit with the core might be something to consider in the current rebuild.
In summery the lessons are:
Keep payroll low during the rebuild
Draft best player available over need
Pay attention to a player's injury history in college
Don't cave to fan pressure
Don't wait too long to trade players
Don't give big money to players based on a playoff run
Make sure you bring in pieces that fit
Are there lessons I missed? Are some of these bogus?