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Lowe: Will Defense, Rebounding Keep Blazers From Playoffs?

A national writer takes an offseason look at the present and future of the Portland Trail Blazers.


Zach Lowe of has a detailed offseason look at the Portland Trail Blazers, which digs into: the team's plans for its pick-and-roll defense, its trade options for All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, the current state of Nicolas Batum's defensive abilities, and what might hold back this roster from making the leap into the playoffs.

"Paul Allen has never wanted to rebuild," says Neil Olshey, Portland's GM. "He does not want to take three steps backward in order to take four steps forward. So we decided we were just going to have one foot in, and one foot out."


"Something like 45 wins is OK with a young roster, starting a bunch of rookie scale guys, and when you have all this cap room in 2015," Olshey says. "But if you're capped out with no flexibility, hovering around 45 wins? That's not acceptable."


Batum looks the part, but even his fans within the organization would admit he's become overrated on that end. He has the speed and length to guard multiple positions, and he has put it all together for occasional stirring stretches of defense and highlight chase-down blocks. But there's no real evidence Batum is a consistently good NBA defender - yet.


Portland had the best offense in the league for a 15-game stretch that started with Eric Maynor's arrival via trade and ended when the season went into total free fall. That's a small sample size, but it has raised hope internally that Portland can achieve the "elite offense/average defense" profile it will take for them to make the playoffs. "People always say that defense wins championships," [coach Terry] Stotts says. "But you know what? Offense and defense win you the title. You can win a lot of games with a great offense."


But there's a decent chance the current roster just won't defend or rebound well enough for Portland to proceed along the preferred path of keeping Aldridge happy, making the playoffs this season, and building up to something bigger. It may be that Portland has built itself a core with a ceiling lower than we'd expect given the starry names and droolworthy skill sets - a core that needs a major long-term jolt from free agency or the internal development of a very young player other than Lillard. Those things may never happen. It's an uncomfortable possibility to contemplate, but it's one Olshey and his staff are ready to address head-on.

PS Thanks to you'vegottomakeyourfreethrows in the FanShots.

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter