NBA expert Zach Lowe weighed in on the Portland Trail Blazers' offseason earlier today in a column for ESPN. Lowe spent the bulk of the column evaluating President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey's decisions to sign Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe.
Lowe argued that the Blazers overpaid for both Crabbe and Turner, but also acknowledged that Olshey may have had few other options:
But all those possibilities -- a free agent star choosing Portland, a minimum-salaried wing blossoming into a killer trade asset -- are extreme long shots. Portland might be trapping themselves into long-term pretty good-ness, but that was the likely result of almost any series of moves. One alternate path -- keeping Nicolas Batum and using a decent chunk of cap space last month -- expired when the Blazers traded Batum to Charlotte.
Lowe also provided insight into Olshey's mindset, confirming that the Blazers believed re-signing their current players would be a better long term move than going all-out to retain cap space for next summer.
"Good players on favorable contracts are more valuable to us than cap room," Blazers GM Neil Olshey told ESPN.com. "Especially in an era where all 30 teams have cap room -- or the ability to get it." The Blazers don't have as much time to wait as you might think; Lillard and McCollum are 26 and 24, squarely in their primes. "With our interest in extending C.J., we weren't going to be a cap room team next year, anyway," Olshey said.
In typical fashion, Lowe goes on to assess the strengths and weaknesses of several Blazers players, including Turner and Crabbe, and the roster as a whole. He makes it clear that the team is pretty good and has room for improvement, despite the weaknesses of several individual players:
If Portland improves and catches some breaks at the right time, they could make the conference finals in two or three years...The Blazers are right to bank on organic improvement. Typical sins of youth dot their worst possessions, and the Blazers will iron some of that out as they grow together.
But Lowe is unsure if the Blazers have a clear path to make the leap from 45-win team to contender:
Portland could have a fine season, win 45-plus games, and bow out in the first round. That's fine. The Blazers are good, and they'll stay good with an uncertain path to the next tier up. Overspending this summer cluttered that path with obstacles, but it's hard to find a realistic alternative that would have cleared it up.