I think that there were some pretty out of whack expectations that a team with maybe 5 tradeable players (players who would actually be considered a positive asset, a number 10 pick in the draft, and some capspace. I understand the idea that we shouldn't have gotten ourselves into this position to begin with, but that can hardly be blamed on Olshey, who has had a little over a year to transform a train wreck into an NBA team.
I was disappointed with our lack of asset gathering last summer, which did limit our options this year, but it is hard to say what else may have been available.
But coming in to this summer, nobody could really name a credible free agent target that would satisfy our most glaring need, starting center. Dave, who has consistently said that we need to add talent to this roster, now seems to be going all in on the bet that the Blazers are surely doomed, that Aldridge will surely be disappointed and want a trade now that we didn't land center who rebounds amazingly and defends the paint well. I think that what we did was add talent in the best way that we could, given the circumstances.
What Options Did We Have?
There were no really good options at center this offseason (maybe the biggest miss was not trading for Kuofos with Denver, but I don't know if his presence would have appeased those who are dissatisfied). The RFA's (Splitter, Pekovic) were not going to be realistically signed by Portland. Maybe 12 mil for Splitter would have gotten him on our roster, but that is vastly overpaying, and many fans were in terror that we would sign him for 9 million. Minnesota is definitely going to match an offer sheet for Pekovic, and really, he is not a great defender or defensive rebounder (the two most important traits to play next to Aldridge).
There may have been trade options such as Gortat and Asik. But realistically, we would be giving up valuable players to land those guys. Houston will have a market for Asik if they want to move him. If you were a Houston fan, would you want to trade Asik for McCollum and Freeland? I don think so. And how would we feel about giving up our new bench scorer to land Asik or Gortat? By giving up Withey and second rounder to land Lopez, we have kept all of our assets.
One of the most overrated assets in the league is capspace. People see 10 mil dollars and think of a great player who is making 10 mil... That's Paul Millsap, Rajon Rondo, David West kind of money!!! problem is, it is really hard to get somebody to take your 10 mil when everyone has 10 mil. If a player signs with the highest bidder, by definition, everyone else thought that he was worth less than that (or couldn't afford him, or didn't have a fit). The point is, signing free agents is a very difficult way to build a team.
How Good is Robin Lopez?
Robin Lopez is a mediocre center. He is not amazing. He is not an All Star. As the team now stands, they should not be considered a threat to make a deep playoff run. However, that was not going to happen most likely. If we take an honest look at what Lopez does well and does poorly we see that he is a reasonable but not perfect fit. Offensively, it looks like he will provide a lot of the interior scoring that Hickson provided for the team, as well as most of the offensive rebounding.
Defensively, he will protect the rim much better, but he will rebound worse, as Hickson had a defensive rebound rate of 28.5 compared to Lopez's 13.4 (based on Hollinger's player stats). However, I recall at least one writer last year claiming that Hickson rebounded well individually, but the team's rebounding actually was worse with Hickson on the court (pretty significant considering who else was coming in for him, Leonard, Aldridge, and small ball lineups). Conversely, the opposite has been written about Lopez. Hopefully, we will see both Hickson and Aldridge increase their rebounding, our defense will be tighter, and we won't see any drop on the offensive end.
How Good Are we Going Forward?
I don't see this as the kind of move that puts us over the top. Nobody does. It doesn't even make us contenders. The biggest problem seems to be that people had expectations that this would be "our summer" expectations fueled by the same man who failed to meet them. However, Now that we actually have a roster full of tradeable players, as well as players who won't wreck the season if given 25 mpg, we can actually look at trading some of our more valuable players.
The key for me, is that we weren't ready to overpay for a solid but not elite free agent. Missing on Tyreke will soon be viewed like missing on Turkoglu in my opinion. And there was no way we were landing Pekovic, or Splitter to begin with. Going with a low cost starter at center, who is still young and will be an asset for several years seems like as good of a play as was available.
Often times, as fans we start to feel entitled to rooting for a contender immediately. We want to sign the best player possible. However, usually, the shortcuts to success don't go well, and you end up having to start over several years later. I would go on about what we do deserve, but instead, I dug up a post Dave wrote several years ago, which I think describes that issue rather well.
In my mind, our front office is competing. They are building a better outlook for next year than they had last year. That is all we can really ask. If you are in the chamionship or bust crowd, I'd suggest you take a year off, this won't be our year, but we are set up well for the future.