Controllable. I want to remove injuries from this discussion. Yes injuries to key players played a role in the Blazers decline. However, injuries can not be controlled. Let's put the injury debate aside to find the two biggest controllable reasons for the Blazer's decline.
Many fans will point to the trade of Andre Miller for Ray Felton as a major mistake. It was the biggest mistake made for last season. However, this trade was not one of the two biggest reasons for the Blazers decline. I would rate the Dre for Ray trade as possibly the 3rd biggest controllable reason for the decline.
The two biggest mistakes happened several seasons ago. Let's revisit the past.
Mistake #2, stashing players overseas. Any GM/owner is making a mistake if he believes his roster is so loaded with talent he does not have room for one additional good player. To make this mistake with two first round picks is a crime, and sets the table to cripple the team in future years.
Stashing a late 2nd round pick overseas may be ok to take a gamble on, such as Jon Diebler. All first round picks should be whiling to play in the NBA the next season. The D-league should be used when necessary to develop talent and help them adjust to the NBA, not the overseas leagues. A player in the D-league can be called up to the NBA anytime he is needed. The process to bring a player over from an overseas league can be costly and take years, and that is if he really wants to play in the NBA.
Start with the 2006 pick of Joel Freeland. The Blazers could have drafted a player still helping us today, such as Paul Mislap. The 2009 pick of Victor Claver could have also been a player helping us such as the next pick Omri Casspi, followed closely by Rodrigue Beaubois, and Taj Gibson. All of these NBA players have been contributing to their teams since being drafted. We are not sure Claver ever wants to play in the NBA, while Freeland at best is sitting on a fence.
Mistake #1, not making a consolidation trade. This mistake can be tied into the mistake of stashing players overseas. If your roster is so loaded with talent you are stashing players overseas, then it is the perfect time for a consolidation trade. There have been many opportunities to make consolidation trades the last 5-6 years. The trade that could have been made that was not was the Chris Paul trade There are many rumors about what New Orleans wanted for CP3, however, all the rumors have the same ingredient, Batum. Portland refused to add Batum to the trade. It is said the deal would have been done with Batum. Here are the pieces most often rumored in this trade.
2011 1st (Nolan Smith)
Looking back, it is very clear the Blazers should have made this trade and included Batum. Batum was way over valued in this trade, by both teams. Batum has now started 202 games, and he is still inconsistent. Batum is a good player, but he is not an all-star. Batum will be overpaid to keep him in Portland next season. So instead of CP3, we will have an inconsistent player with a bad contract.
Not including Batum to complete the CP3 trade is the #1 mistake within the #1 mistake of not making a consolidation trade, that lead to the Blazers decline. CP3 playmaking the starting line up last season would have been a title contender, not the pretender they turned out to be.
What are your two biggest mistakes made by the Blazers that lead to their decline?