Next up in my series analyzing each NBA team’s offseason is the Portland Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers are hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 28-38 shortened season. As with all teams looking to improve in the offseason, both the NBA draft and free-agency period are a battleground for which teams are doing all they can to acquire the players they feel can change their franchise.
Much of the Trail Blazers offseason moves centered on the NBA draft. Portland was fortunate enough to have two high picks: the sixth and eleventh picks in the first round. With these two picks, Portland elected to fill two holes in their starting lineup. With the departure of Raymond Felton, the Blazers were in need of a point guard. To remedy this situation, Portland selected Damian Lillard, a guard out of Weber State, with the sixth-overall pick. Lillard is a combination guard who is a dynamic scorer, but also a solid passer and rebounder for a guard. Lillard will be a big help to LaMarcus Aldridge as he can spread the floor and give Aldridge more room to work in the paint.
To provide some help in the paint and relieve even more responsibility from LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers selected Myers Leonard, a true center out of Illinois. Leonard is a solid defender who can help Aldridge clog the lane and put defensive pressure on other teams. Although his offensive game is still raw, the Blazers do not need him to score as Aldridge, Nicholas Batum, and even Lillard will take on that duty. Leonard will be expected to add a shot-blocking dimension to the Blazers, and this is one thing Leonard can do very well.
Although the Blazers didn’t add much in terms of free agency, they were able to match the offer for Nicholas Batum that the Timberwolves made. In addition to keeping Batum, the Blazers were also able to keep J.J Hickson, who will provide depth down low.
However, the Blazers lost both Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford. These two scoring guards provided quite a bit of offense for the Blazers. Although they drafted Damian Lillard to attempt to fill this void, that is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie. It is unsure how his game will translate to the next level and only time can tell for rookies.
The Blazers executed exactly what they wanted during the draft, but I am not totally sold on their picks. Lillard can be a dynamic guard, but with all the pressure to control the offense and provide some scoring, it is unsure if he will be able to perform. Also, I am not sold on drafting Myers Leonard that high in the draft. Although he is a true center, his game is still very raw and will take time to mold and develop. However, if these rookies develop, then the Blazers could easily be a playoff team. With time being the key here, I will give the Blazers a grade of: