Over Neil Olshey’s tenure as President of Basketball Operations (POBO) the largest portion of the Trail Blazers’ success has been about the backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum—that’s not really up for debate. However, what has taken the Blazers from a fun team to root for to a team that could beat nearly any team on any given night is the organization’s ability to find moves on the periphery.
More than anything, or anyone not named Damian Lillard, this will be the defining point of the past 5 years of Blazers basketball. Whether because they had to, due to financial restrictions, or because it was what was needed, due to the lack of “draw” Portland has to free agents, the Blazers have found and developed cast-offs, malcontents, busts, and couldn’t-make-its better than anyone else in the NBA.
- Maurice Harkless was picked up from the Orlando Magic for a Top 55 protected pick, the equivalent to a used ball rack in terms of draft compensation.
- Al-Farouq Aminu was picked up from free agency after a year for the Dallas Mavericks where he started 3 games, made $981,084, and shot 27 percent from 3.
- Seth Curry came in for $2,500,000 after missing an entire year of basketball due to a broken leg.
- Shabazz Napier and Tim Frazier both were able to revive their careers in Portland after they were given an opportunity to play to their strengths and develop within the system.
If you look up and down the roster of a Blazers team in the Olshey/Lillard era, it has the same marks on it: a couple of top flight guys, some role players, and guys in between that were picked up out of nowhere and made new again. This doesn’t make them amazing; it also doesn’t make them bad players. They were molded into capable, albeit sometimes limited, effective players on a nightly basis in the NBA.
So who are the players out there that fit that current mold?
Point Guard/Lead Guard:
Curry is most likely gone. With that, Anfernee Simons looks to seize 75 percent of those minutes. From there, he could get more, less, or stay the same depending on his impact and learning curve. Will Portland opt to add an emergency guard here? That depends on who’s available and what the price is.
In the veteran minimum category, there are the likes of Devin Harris and Jose Calderon. These are guys who know the game, have a ton of experience, can serve as a mentor to the younger guys, and are okay not playing most nights. Available in a pinch, they might even win you a game once or twice a season. That’s ultimately the type of player Portland looks at here. They give Simons the opportunity, Evan Turner gets the lead guard minutes if things go south, and if things really get weird, you break case in case of emergency for your 14th/15th man.
This is where things get interesting. Portland is going to have a tough time replicating Curry and Rodney Hood’s production at the same monetary rate as last season. Divine intervention seems to be the only way that happens, but in the meantime here are some possibilities.
If the Blazers want a proven 3-and-D wing, Reggie Bullock meets the criteria: fantastic in the spot-up and actually did quite well off screens in limited opportunities. His defensive numbers with the Detroit Pistons have always looked good, he has the size/length to cover multiple positions, and he’s not someone you have to run plays for. Did I mention the most he’s made in a year is $2,255,644?
What about if Portland wanted to see if they could “save” a player? Stanley Johnson is certainly someone who looks like he could use a hand. He hasn’t had a season shooting over 40 percent from the field, and only once has he been over 30 percent from 3—but do the Blazers like the canvas they can work with here? Rangy, athletic, the ability to compete physically without giving anything up: those are things that the Blazers need and tend to look at in these reclamations.
Another journeyman wing who has rated better in varying situations is James Ennis. Again, not a flashy name but a player who’s serviceable from distance and at bare minimum a capable defender.
With Jusuf Nurkic on the shelf until probably the All-Star break, Portland might look to add the veteran sage big man. Think Chris Kaman. Not Chris Kaman a few years ago, but like... now. That’s the kind of help Portland needs. A guy that everyone knows is there, but really no one WANTS to use him because they’re afraid he might actually hurt someone. He’ll be great in the locker room, he may teach the young guys a few things here or there, but mostly he’s there to look mean, possibly inserted into a game to start a fight/drive an opponent insane or fire up the crowd.
There are two, sure-fire candidates for this position: Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler. While both are long in the tooth, they have both shown that A) they are capable of playing a few minutes here or there and B) they are embracing their inner “Cool Runnings” monologue late in their careers.
Perhaps Portland wants to make a move with a team like Atlanta that involves swapping contracts to allow for space for the Blazers while the Hawks pick up a couple picks—then someone like Alex Len could be added to the fold, but that just feels like a bridge too far with Nurkic coming back and Collins’ desire to play the 5.
There are plenty more prospects out there for Portland to take a look at, which we will inevitably get to this offseason, but who are your favorites to add to the roster this offseason? Who will be the surprise addition that has a career year out of nowhere?