The Portland Trail Blazers will enter the 2022-23 season with a lineup short on size, carrying less overall experience than they have over the past few years. Those gaps are causing people to ask whether Portland would be better off with more frontcourt help. One Blazer’s Edge reader has a quick solution: chase veteran ex-stars LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMarcus Cousins to fill bench spots, starting in case of emergency. We take up the question in today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
I see you post answers to questions often so I thought I’d fire one off here and see what you thought as to finding a way to add Aldridge and Boogie to this current lineup.
Size is missing. They both have size.
Aldridge shoots and shooting sticks in the NBA . 12/6 -13/7 last year I believe. Pick and pop with Dame would be awesome even for 10/12 min a game.
Sure the feel’s would be present with the whole return to where he started thing but I’m serious…. Vet min for his production could be a steal.
We all saw Boogie in Denver. He’s potentially the single best insurance policy you could add to a Nurk injury or better yet a way to keep minutes down in the regular season and not lose a ton when you sub or get in foul trouble. Cousins can flat out play .
Yes I get they’re getting a tad long in the tooth but if you think back to dames rookie season they had an amazing infusion of vets and youth on that team.
It does make some instinctive sense. The Blazers could use size, depth, and veteran reliability, particularly in the frontcourt. Your idea isn’t awful.
For a couple reasons, it probably won’t happen.
The Blazers have a reasonable mix of established talent and youth on the roster right now, but little experience together, at least in this combination.
In addition, most every player outside of Damian Lillard is trying, in one way or another, to establish himself. Anfernee Simons will be stepping into a starting role for the first time. Jerami Grant is trying to make the leap from really good player to bona fide star, with the right to minutes and shots that the status entails. Jusuf Nurkic wants a consistent, big offensive role. Nassir Little is working towards the starting lineup and a new contract. Josh Hart is in a potential contract year. Heck, even Lillard is coming off an almost year-long injury following the worst season of his career.
Under these conditions, the Blazers, individually, are likely to attack the season like a pack of wolves going after grandma’s meatloaf.
This isn’t a bad thing. Competition and forward momentum, properly harnessed, can bring out the best in a team and its players.
Now let’s throw DeMarcus Cousins and LaMarcus Aldridge into the mix. Aldridge is 37, Cousins 32. Both have been stars and NBA All-Stars. If they play, they’re going to be fighting to show that they still belong in reasonably-big roles. Fair enough! Their name value and history are the exact reasons you wanted them and not Random Center X.
Having established themselves at that level, though, they’re not going to be able to cede their position and priorities while remaining useful. Trendon Watford and Drew Eubanks—the current frontcourt reserves—are trying to establish themselves too. Nobody’s going to scream (including them) if they can’t do it yet. Watford and Eubanks would be able to handle playing five, or zero, minutes off the bench. Aldridge and Cousins would not. Why are they even here if they’re not going to play?
Bringing those former stars on board, the Blazers would be committing, at some level, to an immutable block of space in the rotation granted to them, not based on current performance, but on history and reputation. Meanwhile everybody else, including Portland’s best players, will still be expected to scrape and scrap for their minutes and touches.
That’s a chemistry issue just waiting to happen. If Aldridge and Cousins get X number of minutes automatically, why not Grant and Simons who are, at this point in their careers, far superior players? The Blazers could probably live with that, but then why not Hart and Little too? Trickle that down the lineup and all of a sudden players are arguing over the right to play instead of fighting for it.
If you solve this issue by not using Aldridge and Cousins regularly, then they’re not going to be happy. You’ll have a couple of huge-name, big-influence players at the end of the bench, halfway fuming, bringing nothing to the table on the court.
In a perfect storm, everyone would integrate seamlessly. This new, deeper lineup could work as you envision, for sure. But the Blazers already know that life doesn’t end up perfectly very often. Head Coach Chauncey Billups will have enough to worry about without having to integrate two former stars whose reputations may be too big for the situation.
Add in the fact that the Blazers have committed to getting younger, also the fact that Aldridge and Cousins combined wouldn’t put Portland much closer to contention than they are now, and you can see why this probably isn’t the right fit at this point.
This kind of signing would have worked better a couple years ago, when Lillard and CJ McCollum held unquestioned spots in the team, and league, hierarchy. Robert Covington, Norman Powell, Trevor Ariza, Larry Nance, Jr., and company had fewer questions surrounding them, little to prove. They were brought on to be exactly who they were. Adding Aldridge and Cousins under those circumstances would have made sense...veterans sliding alongside other established veterans.
This year, I’m guessing the Blazers will get their young guys some burn, then wait to see how this new lineup gels before determining how to patch holes. If Nurkic or Grant go down to long-term injury, they’ll start casting for replacements then, knowing the exact need. Until then, I don’t foresee them chasing more established names to add to the lineup.
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