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Attempting to find a little common ground between "the optimists" and "the realists"

How do we evaluate the moves that the front office has made so far?

In one camp, Dave, Quick, and a number of posters seem to fall somewhere between disappointed and bitter that Olshey did not use our cap space to bring in an established, proven star. This group seems to be driven by the knowledge that this is a "star's" league. Most contenders have at least two All-Stars. This group is also painfully aware that LMA, our one proven star, may choose to leave if the team does not progress to contender status before his contract expires in two years. These critics fear that Olshey's failure to bring in a proven star is a sign that the team is resigned to "rebuilding" once again.

In the other camp, a number of commentators and posters have been impressed that Olshey managed to address so many of the team's needs without trading away any of our core assets. This group is excited about the new depth and potential that has been added to the roster.

At first, the gulf between these two groups seems pretty wide. However, I think if you take the roster moves one at a time, I think the area of disagreement is smaller than it may appear:

1) CJ McCollum: few have objected to the Blazer's choice of CJ. He is talented and has the potential to fill the teams desperate need for a sixth man scorer. He has potential as a back-up PG, although there are the usual concerns about "combo guards" and their ability to handle play-making responsibilities. He appears to have adequate size and reach to at-least not be a defensive liability as a back-up SG. There is optimism that he can play along side Dame and share play-making responsibilities. At a minimum, he gives the team another backcourt player with a good handle and an ability to drive and/or create his own shot.

2) D Wright: few have questioned the signing of Wright, who is a proven 3 pt. shooter. Wright is slated to become Nic's primary back-up and may see some minutes at the 2. He doesn't have a reputation as a great perimeter defender, but he shouldn't be a glaring liability either.

3) Watson: is an obvious and generally accepted choice as a 3rd string PG, who is willing to mentor the two young PGs and able to run the second unit if CJ struggles early.

For the most part, these three acquisitions haven't caused too much of a stir. Some wanted an upgrade for Wes at SG, but concerns about the SG position largely appear to be addressed by CJ and Wright.

What seems to have most of the critics upset was 4) "settling" for RoLo as our new starting center. On one level, I get the concern. Most of us developed our impression of RoLo during his years in Phoenix. He was a mediocre rebounder with a limited offensive repertoire and a tendency to get in early foul trouble. Adding to the concern, he had repeated injury problems that slowed his development.

Last year was Lopez's best season. He stayed healthy. His offensive efficiency improved, and his fouls/36 dropped in half, while his blocks remained in the top 15 in the league. He didn't turn into Dwight, but he performed like a plausible, reasonably efficient, starting center. PER certainly isn't everything, but Lopez's 18.9 last year is actually quite mpressive.

The argument I am trying to make isn't that Lopez is so wonderful. I didn't see him enough last season to really form an opinion, and I would guess that neither Dave, nor Quick, did either. My point is that acquiring Lopez needs to be seen in context.

Whether or not it made sense to invest more cap money in the center position depends greatly upon how you see Leonard. If you are optimistic that Myers is going to develop into a starting center, acquiring Lopez, as a guy who can hold down the fort for a year or two while Leonard learns the pro game, makes a lot of sense. If Lopez continues to improve, then you have a quality back-up, or a highly tradable asset. If he regresses, then you haven't tied up a lot of money for the long term.

In addition, acquiring Lopez is directly tied to the Blazers 5th acquisition, TRob. The Blazers "settled" for Lopez because they chose to use a significant amount of cap room getting Robinson. We should not be comparing Lopez to "Center X". We should be comparing Lopez and TRob to other potential centers as a package deal. Asik doesn't appear to be available, but just as a thought experiment, ask yourself, would you rather have Asik, or would you rather have Lopez and TRob?

A "realist" or "skeptic" like Dave would likely argue that proven production is far better than the unproven potential of two lottery picks like Leonard and TRob. It is a solid argument based on decades of watching the game and knowing that potential is often never realized. On the other hand, I think an equally solid argument can be made that small market teams almost always have to develop their own talent if they wish to become contenders. Big time FAs almost never come to small market teams unless they are already contenders.

IMO, the bottom line is that Portland's fate largely rests on the development of the four lottery picks that are now on our roster. Will Dame follow up his ROY campaign by developing into a second All-Star? Will Leonard and TRob harness their size and athleticism quickly enough so the team can persuade LMA to stay? Will CJ become the sixth man scorer this team desperately needs? Stay tuned Blazer fans, it is going to be an interesting year.

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