Some have suggested that the right move was to move LMA and try to be bad next year. Almost certainly if we traded LMA this off season that would have been the right call. I, and many others, have suggested that Olshey would never be able to sell Paul Allen on that plan. What plan did Olshey sell Allen on? Would it be hard to sell a plan of a rebuild without getting bad? That is what Houston has been able to do. They were decimated with Yao Ming's injury. They were dangerous approaching contender status and then an injury blows it up. Sound familiar? They missed the playoffs, but never became a bad team. Without any question they have returned to contender status. Can we do the same?
I believe that this is the approach that Olshey is taking. I think the plan was 3-fold:
1)Acquire multiple pieces - all with trade value.
2)Don't acquire anybody that has a contract longer than 2 years.
3) Be good now and build to be elite in 2015. (See post by SKK)
We know that LMA's contract expires in the summer of 2015. As it turn out, except for Batum ($12.2M) and CJ ($3.3M), so does every other contract on the Blazers. Obviously, there will be an extension offered to last year's rookie of the year ($4.2M). Likely extensions will be offered to Robinson ($4.6M) and Leonard ($3.0M) if they perform as expected. That will leave us with a ton of cap space looking to the summer of 2015. We also look like a playoff contender, although not a title contender, between now and then.
What does all this tell us about the future moves the Blazers will make?
1) I don't think we will be in a rush to move LMA. In fact, this plan works well towards keeping LMA long-term. The thought has been if we don't add another top talent before 2015 LMA will bolt. What if we get better over the next couple of years and then add that top talent with our cap space in 2015? Would Aldridge stay to play with Lillard, T-Rob, Leonard, CJ and an elite FA signed in 2015? Maybe. If he doesn't, we don't lose Aldridge for nothing. We would have a ton of flexibility with a good core of young players and a ton of cap space to make a quick re-boot. Maybe we package some of the young talent in a Harden-esque move and get an elite talent to pair with the elite FA and LMA. Sounds a bit like how Houston has done it. Sure it has risks. Cap space hasn't exactly been our key to building a contender recently. LMA could walk and the plan fall apart. What couldn't happen is LMA holding us over a barrel. If we are left with a bunch of young talent and a bunch of cap space because LaMarcus leaves, we can build from there. It certainly isn't the certainty that LMA will leave that some of the pundits (Dwight Jaynes) has made it out to be.
2) We will be looking to add pieces now, but will not be signing anybody for a deal longer than 2 years. We may get a guy like Dorell Wright, but we won't get him by being willing to give a longer contract than OKC. We are going to find the best pieces that can fit into our cap space and will sign for 2 years or less.
3) There won't be any serious discussion of contract extensions for guys like Wes or RoLo. If LMA wants to sign a max extension we do that in a minute. He is probably not going to do that. Other guys are going to be UFA after 2015.
I have taken the position that we should have been targeting some of the top talent during this FA period. As I sit back and recognize Olshey's plan I have to agree that he had it right. There was no FA good enough and available enough to blow the 2015 cap space on. Chasing one of those and missing on one of the pieces that fits this plan would have been a mistake. Having a big chunk of 2015 cap space eaten by a contract signed this summer would have created more pressure to move LMA without losing him for nothing.
In the end, you just want your team to have a plan. I don't think anybody can say that Olshey didn't have a plan. It is extra nice when that plan doesn't include being really bad. Who knows if it will work for us the way it has worked for Houston. We do have one advantage over Houston. They had to find somebody willing to trade Harden to them to become attractive to an elite FA. We have a couple of nice pieces in LMA and Lillard in place already. No way to know if that will be attractive enough to draw interest from the type of player we'd be looking for, but it seems like a good plan.