Blazersedge Mailbag: Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts

Dave,

Color me not impressed with the job Neil Olshey is doing so far. Price, Jeffries, Pavlovic, and now Adam Morrison??? It's like we've become the used retread tire shop.

--Arkham

Horrified by the summer? You'd love crafting a new team, I'll bet.

Apologies. That's what happens when your question gets chosen and you didn't use your real name.

Seriously, you have to remember the Blazers' goals here. They've got a starting lineup. It'd be almost impossible to add on that front. Their bench is about as solid as ether. They could easily bolster the lower two-thirds of their roster but at what cost and to what effect? One player here or there will not make a significant difference in their depth or win total this year. Given that, it makes far more sense to bring Morrison on board with a tiny, no-risk deal than it does to spend more on an incremental improvement at best.. It'd only cost a few million more per player to get guys who would make you feel better about this off-season. But would those guys come in on single-year deals? Probably not. You'd end up signing a couple two-year leases at $3-4 million per and maybe one three-year, $5 million deal. Now you're spending $12 million in cap space on guys who probably won't get the Blazers to the playoffs and certainly won't help them go deep even if they make the post-season. The choice isn't between being great and being lousy. The choice is between capping yourself up for marginal players or taking flyers on disposable long-shots like Morrison and leaving yourself another chance later if they don't work out. Olshey can't get a definitive starter right now so he's looking for a 15th man. When that's your goal, go cheap!

If and when the Blazers are in contention and they announce Morrison as the final piece to take them over the top, then you can slap your forehead and call them crazy. Right now, Morrison fits.

Dave,

We haven't talked enough about the potential changes Terry Stotts brings to the organization. This will be a breath of fresh air! I think you'll see all the veteran Blazers play better than they did last season.

--Julian

That bandwagon needs to pass a couple speed bumps before it gains momentum.

The first question is how much better star/superstar LaMarcus Aldridge can play. He celebrated the chance to move off of that left block and get up on the elbow last year after Nate McMillan was fired. Relishing variety and improving because of it are two different things, though. LaMarcus has gotten really, really good down on that block. He still doesn't finish in the lane as much as I'd like to see, but that's not the direction his variety is stretching. He's going farther out, not in. It's hard to imagine his percentages getting higher from the field that way. If his percentages don't rise then improving his numbers means taking more shots. That's fine by me, but you have to ask how much that'll affect the production of other guys in need of a breakthrough this year.

I once saw Joan Jett sing. She did a bunch of hits and near-hits, then at the end kind of complained about having to do "I Love Rock and Roll". I understand. That's not the most creative song in the world. I imagine after two decades of doing it every night it gets old. But you know what? She's good at it. It's her biggest hit. Variety in the set doesn't change that. The left block is Aldridge's version of that song. He can fiddle around with new compositions for a while. Perhaps Coach Stotts will even encourage it. But when push comes to shove he better return to the #1 option...which is exactly what he was doing under the old coach.

The second question is how much ceiling the high-level supporting cast has. Damian Lillard is the centerpiece here. How Stotts develops his young point guard will be the single most important barometer of his early tenure. But if you're talking immediate effect you have to look at Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. Both have shown flashes of brilliance. Both have been mercurial. I'll be impressed if Stotts can raise either of them to near-star level. It's possible that what you're seeing is what you're going to get...that these players' ups and downs aren't a creation of coaching but reflect their talent and temperament.

Portland's bench isn't even a question. Developing them will be difficult, if not a non-starter. Collectively Portland's reserves are more "hope" than "win".

Any coach is only as good as his talent. With Aldridge close to maxed-out in minutes and points, Batum and Matthews marked as "maybes", and a crumbling corps of reserves, Stotts may have trouble getting that fresh air to blow right away. He'll be riding a rookie and asking for more time, which is exactly what he should get. As with Olshey, Stotts' performance shouldn't be judged on a single season. Barring a complete meltdown, Portland's new coach gets a free pass on the negatives until the talent around him gets better. Any fresh air he brings under these conditions will merit serious applause.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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