For the first time in over 15 years, the Portland Trail Blazers are making way for what appears to be a full-youth rebuild.
It sounds odd to say — has it really been that long? — But I’d argue it rings true. Over the past 15 years to 20 years, the team underwent multiple revamps. There were valleys mixed in with peaks. The Blazers never tore the roster down practically to the studs and gave full rein to the youngsters as it appears will happen if Damian Lillard is traded in the coming months.
The Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge era transitioned somewhat quickly to the Aldridge/Lillard era, and then when Aldridge bolted, the Blazers immediately and unexpectedly were playoff-ready in the new Lillard/CJ McCollum era.
You’d have to go back to the mid-2000s to find a Blazers team entrenched in a multi-year rebuild project. Back to a time when Portland — after a few draft cycles of trying — reset its roster around exciting rookies Roy and Aldridge, both picked up in the 2006 lottery. That fun draft class was followed up the next year with No. 1 pick Greg Oden. At that point, even with Oden’s health issues, the rebuild was off and running. The process culminated in the “Rise With Us” run to relevance and a few “Rip City Uprise” playoff appearances, before things unraveled prematurely in the early 2010’s (no need to dive into those painful details).
In spirit, the Blazers are attempting to recapture some of that initial rebuild magic and launch the next version of Rise With Us. If Lillard moves to another franchise, Portland will hand the keys over to its new draft class of young talent, headlined by Scoot Henderson. The third overall pick will join a young, but promising nucleus of Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons. With immediate expectations low, the franchise will give this new core time to try and build something special, while experimenting with new pieces and fits along the way.
Save for power forward Jerami Grant and maybe center Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers will primarily play without veterans. Excluding Lillard, Nurkic and Grant, the average age of Portland’s current roster is 21.6 years old. With that type of youth, games will be less about wins and losses, more about young players finding their footing, developing their chemistry and skills, and forging a new team identity.
As we appear to approach this launching point, full of hopes for a new generation of Blazers, I want to know your fan experiences with rebuilding Blazers teams. Since it’s been so long, what do you remember about watching a Blazers team in rebuild? What do you recall about the highs, lows, and nature of the process?
Looking ahead, what are your expectations for Rise With Us 2.0? What are your goals for player and team progress in Year One? What do you think the timeline for success should and could be?
Let us know in the comments!