Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers ranked last in bench scoring at a mere 18.5 points per game. Lack of depth was the main cause of that, as most of the bench is composed of young and inexperienced players.
Veteran point guard Mo Williams had a player option for the 2014-15 season on his contract and he declared his intentions to opt out. He is now looking for security in the form of a three-year contract. The Blazersedge staff takes a look at whether Blazers GM Neil Olshey would be better off re-signing Williams or testing the free agent market (click here for a list of the free agent point guards).
Dane Carbaugh: Realistically? Mo Williams. Despite the fact that he was much maligned by the fan base on social media this season, his offensive play is more a function of who was on the floor with him. The Trail Blazers lacked penetrators, and with Williams being the only one who could drive the lane, it allowed opposing defenses to sag off and stick to Portland's shooters.
Surrounding Williams with another big man who can shoot and cut is key. That could be an improved and healthy tandem of Joel Freeland and Thomas Robinson, or a free agent. Defensively, Williams is a liability but the fact that he already has a whole season running Terry Stotts' offense is a big counterweight. Portland's back up guard from last season is the best fit for the team, both systematically and monetarily.
Timmay!: Mo Williams. Yeah, you don't have to say it, I know what you're thinking. But Mo's the answer anyway. Portland only has the Mid-Level and Bi-Annual Exemptions available to make a splash in free agency. So, assuming Portland can sign Mo using the Non-Bird Exception, which wouldn't affect the exemptions, he's the right answer at 3 years and a little over $3 million per season. The Blazers need to get value for every available dollar. You don't want to use your exemptions on a mediocre PG to back up Lillard, when you could already have that position covered without hurting those exemptions. So, Mo stays.
This shouldn't cause any concerns about CJ McCollum's development. As Terry Stotts showed us last fall with Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard, he has no fear of rewarding a player who significantly improved, instead of maintaining status quo. So McCollum will get plenty of practice, and will continue to learn first-hand how to defend elite PG's and crafty veterans. If McCollum earns minutes, Mo's new contract is still small, and would be very tradeable.
In the unlikely event that Mo signs elsewhere, the Blazers will probably want someone fairly inexpensive, because they don't want to blow the whole MLE on a backup PG. That means signing an old-timer, or a player who has peaked low and/or has a few injuries (uh-oh) in his history. So they could look at players like Kirk Hinrich or Jordan Farmar, if he clears a physical. They can hit threes, and both have experience playing for above-average teams.
Sam Tongue: Whoever the backup guard is, they need to have experience, can shoot threes and come at a reasonable price. Plain and simple. That realistically leads me to think that Kirk Hinrich is the right fit -- he knows how to lead a team (he had to these last couple year's with Rose's injury) and definitely has some range. But the real question here is... could Portland ever be ready for Jimmer-mania?
Chris Lucia: I think an ideal backup point guard can facilitate when Lillard's off the floor, and also play off him situationally like Mo Williams did last year. Hopefully, you get a guy with some defensive chops but to be honest, it doesn't look there are many available unrestricted free-agent point guards known for their defense.
That said, I like D.J. Augustin -- he's a six-year vet who is a career 37.7 percent three-point shooter, which is important in Terry Stotts' offense. Augustin's also had multiple years with 6+ assists, so he should fit the facilitator role when necessary. He made the veteran's minimum salary last year, so he should be relatively affordable and at 26 years old, could fit into the Blazers' long-term plans if things go well.
Ben Golliver: I'm far from the world's biggest Mo Williams fan -- I prefer that my point guards post Player Efficiency Ratings better than Raymond Felton's -- but I think the most likely course of action is for the marriage of convenience between the Blazers and Williams to continue. Portland shouldn't be, and likely won't be, the three-year money-tossing sugar daddy that Williams has said he is looking for. Likewise, Williams isn't a consistent, two-way standout capable of taking Portland to the next level. The match isn't perfect here, but it's not terrible, either, with Williams still capable of filling his role as CJ McCollum develops.
Hopefully Portland can talk him down on his salary expectations somewhat to make it work. Logistically, I think it makes more sense for Portland to spend its exceptions addressing other bench needs while bringing back Williams on a reasonable deal as a placeholder. The big name point guards in this summer's class are totally out of reach, while the second- and third-tier guys that might actually change scenery aren't very thrilling. If the back-up point guard is going to be resolved with a meh solution, it might as well be with Meh Williams.
Sagar Trika: It may be an unpopular opinion among many fans, but Mo Williams is the likely answer at backup point guard. At this position, I'd imagine Olshey is looking for a serviceable veteran that can shoot. While Williams is streaky and turnover-prone, he has played under Stotts for years, dating back to their time in Milwaukee. Williams fits well into Stotts's offense.
Of course, if there is someone Olshey believes fits better on Portland's roster, I wouldn't mind a change. It was recently reported that Los Angeles Clippers guard Darren Collison was planning to opt out of his contract for next season. He was only being paid $1.9 million for his play last season and I am hopeful Portland can sign him for a similar price. The only two problems I see are that he wants more money or that he would rather start than back-up Lillard, something other teams can offer him.
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