Brett Koremenos of Grantland.com writes that the Portland Trail Blazers are one of four teams facing a "crucial" 2013 NBA Draft.
Speaking of stars who may soon want out of their current digs, Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge has just two years left on his contract and a desire to play for a playoff team. And Aldridge isn't alone. Rugged shooting guard Wes Matthews may also become expendable if the Trail Blazers don't improve a dreadful bench that cost them a real shot at a playoff berth this past season. The team has cap space to bring players in via free agency, but at most, it's enough to sign a second-tier free agent like Pekovic or Utah's Paul Millsap. And that's assuming management doesn't decide to bring back restricted free agent Eric Maynor.
No matter how its free-agent moves pan out, Portland faces a lot of pressure to find some viable rotation players in this draft. The team has only one first-round pick, 10th overall, but it does have three second-round selections (39, 40, and 45) that it can hopefully use to mine some talent later in the draft. If it can't find productive bench players, Portland will be forced to use valuable cap space in the future on mid-level free agents in an attempt to fill out their reserve units. Deals like that are among the least valuable in the new economic climate of the NBA and typically end up being given to players who don't move the needle much. If the Trail Blazers are to make the playoffs in an increasingly competitive Western Conference anytime soon, this draft will have a lot to say about it.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter