In a very short time, the Portland Trail Blazers have had to transition from their glamorous, offense-heavy roster to a more gritty, versatility-focused bunch.
Ask interim general manager Joe Cronin, and he’ll tell you that it’s all a part of the Blazers’ plan in building their roster.
In today’s piece from Jason Quick of The Athletic, Cronin elaborated on his thoughts on roster construction going forward to effectively calibrate with how head coach Chauncey Billups wants his team to play.
New acquisition Josh Hart was among the first to be praised, his traits and playstyle among a few of the positives of the roster retooling. Cronin spoke glowingly of the two-way guard:
“He’s a keeper,” Cronin told The Athletic. “Josh embodies what we are trying to build here. The talent level, the skillset, the competitiveness, the IQ, the defensive-minded, guard-anyone approach. His ability to make others better, to make shots, push the ball.”
Cronin went on to further note that the Blazers wanted to acquire more Hart-type players at other positions as well.
As Quick noted, this means that instead of searching for 3-point shooters and scorers, Portland will focus its resources on acquiring tough-minded players who have a versatility about them. He also brought forth Justise Winslow as an example:
“And players like Justise Winslow,” Cronin said, noting the power forward who has flourished since being acquired from the Clippers. “So our goal is to keep finding players like them. Some may have bigger names, some may have not-as-well-known names. But if they fit the way, the style and the mentality we want to play, we are in.”
Quick hit on some of the moves Cronin made, and how they’ve created some financial opportunities for the Blazers to grow. The two biggest numbers: a $21 million trade exception and potentially up to $40 million in cap space. That serves them well in their hopes towards bringing back restricted free agent Anfernee Simons this summer.
One of the crucial topics surrounding this year’s team is what they intend to do with their aspirations of extending to a ninth-consecutive playoff berth, the would-be longest in the NBA. Cronin added some thoughts on that win-now vs. win-later mentality.
“You want to build a competitive environment; you want a culture of winning,” Cronin said. “It’s the old Vince Lombardi quote: ‘Winning is a habit, and unfortunately so is losing.’ So I worry about creating bad habits, but I also want us to focus on the big picture. We are locked in on next year — we were at the trade deadline and still are today.
“Do we want to compete? We’d love to compete on every level. It’s hard to think about not making the playoffs or losing the play-in, but we need to be smart,” Cronin said. “Smart with people’s health. Smart with our player development. Smart with getting these young guys the reps they need. So a lot of it is just focusing on big picture. Which is hard.”
Cronin’s role in all of that will also be among the must-ask questions. As Quick notes here, Cronin hasn’t quite yet been notified by Jody Allen, the Blazers chair, of what his role will be in the future, as it relates to this roster development, one of many question marks heading into the 2022-23 offseason.
Quick’s piece hits on much more, including Cronin’s preparations for the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, how the Blazers can position themselves for what’s to come in that regard, and how Portland plans to solve the age-old “Are they undersized?” question, among much else.