Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey had a busy summer, to say the least.
In a July press conference introducing the team's 2013 offseason acquisitions, he essentially said his goal was to take the core of the team, as constructed, and fill in the gaps to make a competitive roster heading into next season.
Olshey's first order of business? Find a starting center. Robin Lopez will play that role this year, and he showed last season that he can be a consistent contributor. If he plays as well or better than he did last year, Lopez can provide starter minutes at the center position and not be a detriment to the team on either end of the floor.
Dorell Wright provides accurate three-point shooting off the bench and capable defense, while Mo Williams brings scoring punch and a veteran presence to the backcourt. C.J. McCollum, Meyers Leonard and Thomas Robinson will likely garner the bulk of the remaining bench minutes, while Will Barton, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, Allen Crabbe and Earl Watson will likely play sporadically and situationally, barring major hits to the depth chart. There is no question that the talent level off the bench rose dramatically compared to last season.
Considering the pool of available players this summer, Olshey efficiently assembled a roster -- on paper, of course -- that could compete for a playoff spot next spring. Whether or not this roster can make any noise in the postseason is a discussion for another day, but the Blazers should be capable of playing with any team on any given night. If coach Terry Stotts can successfully work Portland's newly-acquired talent into his free-flowing offense, this incarnation of the roster has the potential to be one of the NBA's more entertaining young teams heading into 2014.
But that begs the question: How is Stotts supposed to distribute his players' minutes next year?
The 2012-2013 Blazers season showed that Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum can play extended minutes and continue to contribute positively. On the other hand, the starters' solid play degraded over time as the stress from the long minutes manifested itself in the form of fatigue and injuries.
The bench will get more minutes this year, undoubtedly, but Stotts will have his hands full doling out those minutes.
Consider that there are 48 minutes per game available at each position, making for 240 total minutes to be dispersed. For the sake of discussion, let's say the returning starters each average three fewer minutes than last season. We can probably assume that Lopez will get all 29 minutes J.J. Hickson filled last year.
Your starters' predicted minutes for next season then look something like this (from basketball-reference.com):
Lillard: 35.6 min.
Matthews: 31.8 min.
Batum: 35.5 min.
Aldridge: 36.6 min.
Lopez: 29 min.
This actually looks like a reasonable distribution of minutes for the starters. If history is any indication, Lillard and Batum will both see some time at the two, while Aldridge will play center situationally. Their projected minutes-per-game reflect this.
Seven players will likely fight for the remaining ~72 minutes. If Robinson, Leonard and McCollum are to develop, they'll likely eat up a large chunk of them. Williams and Wright are proven role-players, and will earn minutes as well. They played 30.8 and 22.6 mpg last year, respectively, and those kind of minutes may not be available.
Freeland, Claver and Barton also have guaranteed contracts heading into the season. Their playing time will likely dwindle with this summer's new bench acquisitions taking up the bulk of the available backup minutes.
So what is your ideal distribution of minutes as the roster is currently constructed? If you were coach Stotts, how would you concoct your rotation of players while keeping the product on the court competitive, appeasing the veterans and developing the young players with potential?