It is a great sign for our Portland Trail Blazers, the fact that I am less excited for the off-season than I was for the actual games, for the first time in several years.
But, we do need to make some moves to make the difficult jump from 2nd tier to top tier team. As has been discussed ad nauseam, we are armed with the MLE and BAE and have two roster spots and no draft picks.
While some have discussed potential trades for picks (which I don't think is a viable strategy for where we are), I have seen little discussion of trades for established veterans.We've talked about free agency, but there are very few players that would make a big impact and are in our price range. Not to mention, if we bring Mo back, there will be only one roster spot.
The first order of business should be to pursue a veteran via a package trade. This would add some experienced talent and depth, while also opening up roster spots that we can fill in free agency. Currently, we just have too many players who haven't crossed from prospects to consistent contributors.
We don't have any huge trade chips outside of our starting lineup, but we do have some good assets for a rebuilding team though, and a couple of expiring contracts in Dorell Wright and Joel Freeland that could return a decent amount of salary.
Every contending team should have a starter quality player coming off the bench. Here are a few options to bolster our young bench:
A Kevin Love trade this off-season seems almost inevitable. If that is the case, Minnesota really has no choice but to try and rebuild (kinda sad for a team to have to tear down and rebuild before they even make the playoffs). Expensive veterans like K-Mart are not much use to a rebuilding team and should be available for little in terms of assets, either as part of a larger deal involving Love, or in the ensuing fire sale.
Martin, for his part, would add a great scoring punch to our bench, coming off of a season where he averaged over 19 points per game.
Other veterans who should be available include Turiaf, Barea, Mbah a Moute, Budinger, and Brewer, though none of those guys intrigue me.
The Nuggets took a big step back this year, and are in an interesting spot. They have plenty of talent, but it is spread out through their entire roster and other than Ty Lawson, they don't have even one player who has proven himself as an above-average NBA starter. They have a ton of overpriced mid-level talent, and are overpaying the oft-injured Danillo Gallinari, and JaVale McGee who, in addition to being JaVale McGee, has also struggled with injuries (I won't call out any of the commenters on here who were pushing to trade for McGee last year).
On the outside of the top-10 of the Western Conference, and with no clear path to making great improvements, the Nuggets are prime rebuild candidates.Their roster is filled with the type of players who should be attainable for Portland.
Chandler, Mozgov, and Foye could all bolster our bench. None of these guys should return a major asset, and we have the outgoing salary to bring even all three back.
Chandler could play the supersub role. He is a plus defender, would bring scoring punch, and could play the two in bigger lineups and the four in smaller lineups. His shooting isn't up to normal Blazer standards, but he isn't terrible.
Mozgov would allow Lopez to breathe without killing our defense. Foye is an instant offense type off the bench, and is a great shooter who could also be the secondary ball-handler.
Post-trade deadline, the 76ers were basically a D-League team beyond Young and MCW. Young is entering the prime of his career, and the Sixers have a long ways to go before sniffing the playoffs, even in the EC. They were one of the most obviously tanking teams in years, and will still be in asset acquisition/young talent development mode next year.
Philly might be the best place for some prospects currently buried on our bench to play and develop without worrying about blowing leads during a crucial playoff race.
While Young is a power forward which is clearly not the greatest need for us, he would instantly be one of the best bench players in the league. We could supersub him as LA's backup, and play him in small and big lineups. He'd be our primary scorer off the bench, and we could surround him with defenders and shooters.
The Celtics could go in a couple different directions this off-season, either continuing the rebuild or shifting in to win-now mode. They have been rumored to be interested in Kevin Love. Portland could get involved by sending some minor assets to Minnesota and taking on Green.
Green would bring a lot of similar traits as Young, but with slightly worse scoring and slightly better shooting.
Milwaukee Bucks: OJ Mayo
I know this one will justifiably elicit howls of protest, and I certainly wouldn't be sold on it. Two words though: buy low.
Mayo is talented enough to be a top-three player on a good team. Remember just a couple years ago, he was the best player at times on a Dallas team that somehow stayed in the playoff hunt. He wasn't very motivated to play for a terrible Bucks team though.
This would be a swing-for-the-fences of move with big downside. But it could pay off big if Mayo regained top form and straightened up his act.
A couple of other ideas:
Any of these trades would also open up roster spots to utilize the exceptions and sign vet minimum type players. I'd also favor bringing back Mo Williams on a 3/$10 mil type deal.
These trades are certainly not perfect, and if someone like a Marc Gasol became available I'd be all over it. But given what we have to work with, I think this is a viable path towards upgrading. A bench of, say, Thaddeus Young, Mo, a mid-level vet, and a couple of our improving young players? That's the bench of a contender, something we haven't had this side of Detlef Schrempf, Greg Anthony, and Bonzi Wells.
What do you guys think?