Everyone has ideas on how to improve the team. Some are no-brainers, like trading Wesley Matthews and Nolan Smith for an All Star. Who would say no to that? Some aren't popular at all, like letting Batum walk, no matter what he's offered. But all of it comes down to what priorities we have in place. We often look at the moves, but we far more infrequently look at the priorities that inform those moves. Well, let's look at what some of those priorities might be. And what kind of order we might put them in. Granted, some will overlap in areas, but these are some that I've seen. I'm not going to put them in order just yet. But I am going to number them to make it easier for you to do so in the comments.
1. Championship Priority.
For some, there is only one priority, winning a championship. And every move is evaluated on whether or not we get closer to that goal. It is definitely a priority I want the Blazers to have. I want them to be working towards that goal. It'd be even better if they got there. Most perennially good teams have this goal. The Spurs and the Lakers are the ones that come to mind the easiest. Always looking for that last piece to fill in around a Hall of Famer and the existing core. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But cost always takes a back seat to winning. Because winning makes up the difference.
2. Financial Priority.
This is a little bit of the opposite of the championship priority, in that operating in the black is more important than adding talent. Historically, this has been the Donald Sterling Clippers. However, it is also possible to hold both as priorities. And small market teams must do this to compete with the money being poured into the Lakers and Knicks, the Celtics lately and the Heat even more lately. New Orleans could never compete with Dallas on a financial level, and so has to keep this as a constant priority as a matter of survival. However, with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, this priority will come into play as the penalties for overspending have increased considerably.
3. Flexibility Priority
It used to be that if you were over the salary cap, you had the same flexibility of every other team. With the way exceptions worked, often it was more advantageous to be over the cap than under it. Especially only by a little bit. One had to go significantly under to get much reward out of it. But a hallmark of the new CBA climate is trying to retain flexibility. Those who have remained financially responsible have been rewarded with more flexibility than under the previous CBA. While those who have overspent and entered into luxury tax levels have been hampered with higher penalties than under the previous CBA. So retaining flexibility can be important if you still have moves that you want to make.
4. Long Term Priority.
Flexibility only gets you so far. At some point if you want to make a run you will need to lock up star players long term. Or have a long term outlook to try and acquire those star players. Flexibility alone isn't enough. Planning for cap space in a year with a good free agent crop can pay off big time. Or it may peter out into not much of anything. Ask the Nets about that one. But one could also forgo short term flexibility in order to reach long term goals, instead of just those trying for a championship.
5. Tradeable Contract Priority.
One problem Portland has had, especially towards the end of the Pritchard/Penn era is the lack of tradeable contracts. Players were either on rookie contracts and heavily underpaid for their position. On rookie contracts and therefore couldn't be used as anything but filler. Or were players that no one really wanted. (Hello Raef LaFrentz!) There was no way to really consolidate because there were so few players on medium level contracts. Another priority can be having players on contracts that are tradeable. Wesley Matthews would be an example of that. A player on a midlevel contract, playing mid-level ball. Someone who could potentially balance out a trade in the future.
6. Raw Asset Accumulation Priority.
Portland fans are used to this. Paul Allen going out and buying draft picks on draft day. Anything to add assets to the team. Signing players just because we have a Mid-Level Exception available. Picking up Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn and especially J. J. Hickson, just because we could. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it just clogs the works.
7. Draft Position Priority
Teams don't tank for no reason. Or trade players for draft picks. Odds are that you have to home grow your superstar. They don't just show up on your doorstep in free agency... usually. So getting that transcendent player often take a lot of luck, a lot of patience and a lot of losing. Because unlike Football or Baseball, in Basketball one player does make that big of difference.
8. Team Chemistry Priority
As we've seen, having a ball hogging chucker who cares more about his own stats than playing winning ball with his teammates is a proposition for losing basketball. But so is playing with five player who all need the lane to be effective. On floor chemistry can make or break a team. Finding the right mesh is tough. Because sometimes you're stuck with what you've got. But it may be worth passing up a better trade talent wise in order to keep the players on the floor moving correctly.
9. Keeping Your Star Happy Priority.
Perhaps this shouldn't be a priority. But when you've got one of the top five players in the NBA, you don't want him to walk when his contract is up. Or even think about it, as the Dwight Howard media circus has shown. A lot of it may depend on the personality and loyalty of the player himself. But trading away his favorite teammate is something you may want to think twice about.
10. Keeping Your Fans Happy Priority.
Fans generally don't like their team to tank. Or their players to not care. Fans want players who leave it all out there on the floor each night. Fans also like flashy trades, so they're not always the best judge of moves. Aging former star? Hurrah! Our aging former star for some guy no one has heard of (yet might be really pretty good)? Boo! Fans are fickle, but they are the team's main source of income. Of course, if the owner want to move the team, he can just spit on the fans, so that they want them gone anyways. Though that's not really working in Sacramento brothers Maloof.
11. The Culture Priority
Former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard's favorite word (with cake a near second). Don't know if culture ever helped winning or if it was just the right marketing strategy for disenfranchised Blazer fans. But it was undoubtedly a priority. One which Paul Allen was happy to pay for when he bought out Steve Francis before he ever played a game.
What other priorities do you see? Share them. Which priorities would you hold? Which ones would you leave out? What kind of order would you put them in? Share that too. And of course, some priorities change depending on where the team is at. Go ahead and give them for the team as it is right now.
Personally, I'd go 6, 4, 8, 1, 3, 7, 5, leaving out the rest. Because right now, we need talent. We need a game changer. Aldridge is an All-star, but not the level of player you need to have to win in this league. He's not what Brandon Roy was and could have been. We need to get that player. And we're not going to get one in free agency. Not where we're at now. Despite my earlier in the year hopes. Goals need to be long term goals. Plans need to be long term plans. We need to nail the draft picks we get. And try to get more as we can. It's a long road from here to a championship. Better get started as soon as possible.