I should first note that I've been a HUGE Blazers fan since the 1st grade. 20 years later, I couldn't be more passionate about my team. I love to see them win and to see the young players play above their expectations. And so, I've been trying to maintain a positive perspective as the beginning of this season has unveiled our 2012-2013 Portland Trailblazers, focusing on how fun it is to luck out on the best player in the draft at the 6 spot and how much fun it is to see a rag-tag bunch of nobodies rise up and beat some pretty good teams. That perspective, however, is getting more and more difficult to keep. Here's why:
Before this season started, I was completely on board with a 2-3 year rebuilding plan that had the potential to put us in a lower level playoff spot next year and hopefully, with all of the balls rolling our way, in high-level competition by the start of the 2014-2015 season. I think most people were on the same timeline as I was when this season started. From what I understood and could speculate, we would spend this year developing Lillard and Leonard while being patient as our terrible bench lost game after game for us. We would finish in the bottom 10 and get a relatively solid rotation player out of our pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. That pick, along with our marquee free agent signing(s), and hopefully the exercising of our Bird rights on Hickson, would put us over that hump in asset acquisition that would allow us to make a really good push towards and into the playoffs next year.
A team looking something like this:
Lillard / ?
Matthews / ?
Batum / Babbit
Aldridge / Hickson
Leonard / ?
The ?'s would be filled in with the FA(s) and the 2013 Draft Pick.
We were to work on unity and cohesion next year and - then the following off season pick up that last MLE player or work out a trade of some sort to fill in that last piece or 2 we needed to have our solid 8-man playoff rotation in place for 2014-2015. I was STOKED and completely on board with that plan. I expected 30 wins this year (2012-2013), at the most, maybe 40-45 the following year (2013-2014) and was hoping to push for 50+ in year 3 (2014-2015) as we made those minor moves to solidify our team and make our push with this core unit.
As I've watched this season unfold thus far, however, I think we're going to be slightly too good to keep our pick this offseason (Top 12 protected from what I gather) and I think that Hickson is playing slightly too well for us to retain him after we aquire our free agent(s) this summer (assuming we can land one). Although I enjoy watching our team win and play obove expecations, those 2 pieces are a very large part of that solid 8-man playoff rotation goal. I fear that we're trending towards mediocrity for the next few years and may be on track to delay our success at least 1-2 more seasons - and maybe even miss our window with this core unit (Aldridge, Batum, Lillard). Going into next year, without that pick and without Hickson (not a forgone conclusion, but highly likely considering the way he's playing), we're now looking at:
Lillard / ?
Matthews / ?
Batum / Babbit
Aldridge / ?
Leanord / ?
On this new path we find ourselves on, those question marks would only be filled by 1 FA, maybe 2 - and no draft pick and no Hickson. Leaving us with 3-4 holes being filled by our currently atrocious bench. If we trade Hickson, maybe we avoid the 1-2 year delay, but if we don't, isn't this realistically what we're looking at? We kind of have to trade Hickson, don't we? I fear that we lose the draft pick, lose Hickson, pick up a decent free agent, but then are left with a team next year that's just as average as our team this year. Then what? We go into the following year without the cap space and with an average mid-round pick?
Am I crazy? Please tell me I am - and why...I'd like to stop worrying about this.