Well, it was fun imagining for awhile that the Blazers could be playoff contenders. This year was supposed to be the year in between, the year of rebuilding and asset acquisition. The play of our core players bodes well for the future.
But, in the end, our lack of interior defense and bench depth is too much to sustain a playoff run for a full season.
As we all know, our pick this year is top-12 protected. Right now, we are slated to get the 14th pick; if we finish there that is the worst place to be. Already, it will be difficult to get a pick that is better than 12th, and the Lakers and the Mavericks (3.5 games behind) will have to catch us for us to keep our pick.
I am not a proponent of tanking, as in losing on purpose. But I am a proponent of giving young players more PT with an eye on the future. Don't start benching LA or Batum. Just stop playing the starters heavy minutes or giving guys like Jared Jeffries and Sasha Pavlovic minutes.
Trade Hickson (which wouldn't eliminate the chance of signing him, btw) if a team is willing to offer any future assets. Dump Pav, J. Jeffries, and Price if anyone is willing to give anything up for them. Maybe Babbitt too (there are lots of teams that need floor spacing).
Most importantly, start giving Leonard, Freeland, Claver, and Barton meaningful minutes. Maybe some of them won't cut it as NBA players, but they definitely won't if they don't get a chance. Maybe one or more of them breaks out and that gives us, at the very least, another trade asset.
Barton has shown flashes but is usually pulled once he starts making his inevitable mistakes. Leonard has not been good but young centers need some time to develop and the more playing time he gets, the better for the future.
Freeland has been terrible but does seem to have the necessary skill, just has not made the adjustment to the NBA. Maybe that'll happen with consistent PT. Claver is a great energy guy and has the tools. With a little more experience on an NBA court, maybe he can settle down a bit and get better at the fundamentals.
All of these guys are under contract for next year, and if we can parlay them in to trade assets or rotation players, that would help greatly.