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Offseason Outlook: Portland Trail Blazers

Guaranteed Contracts


  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (10th overall)
  • 2nd Round (39th overall)
  • 2nd Round (40th overall)
  • 2nd Round (45th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $43,240,658
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $1,399,507
  • Cap Holds: $22,078,219
  • Total: $66,718,384

If you were simply perusing the NBA's regular-season standings, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Trail Blazers took a step back this past season. After all, Portland's 33-49 record (.402) was the franchise's worst mark in seven years, and the club took a nosedive at the end of the season, losing its final 13 games.

But consider how the Blazers' roster looks now compared to how it looked after the lockout. The 2011/12 season opened with Nate McMillan on Portland's bench, coaching a veteran-heavy team that included Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby, and Gerald Wallace, among others. Since then, Portland has jettisoned its overpriced veterans, added 2012/13's Rookie of the Year (Damian Lillard), locked up a promising young swingman (Nicolas Batum), and built around a big man who receives perennial All-Star consideration (LaMarcus Aldridge).

In addition to Lillard, Batum, and Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Meyers Leonard look like keepers, and give the Blazers a solid core at positions one through five. But while that five-man unit represents a nice start for Portland, the team's weakness in '12/13 wasn't its starting lineup — it was its bench. With J.J. Hickson starting in Leonard's place, the Blazers' bench was made up primarily of NBA rookies (Leonard, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, and Will Barton) and unproductive players on rookie deals (Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt).

The bench figures to be GM Neil Olshey's primary area of concern this offseason, as he enters the summer armed with the 10th overall pick and over $10MM in cap space. Olshey has talked multiple times about making the roster deeper and more flexible, so it's unlikely he'll put all his cap room toward a single player, though a big man like Nikola Pekovic could make a nice target. The more likely scenario involves dividing that cap space and using it on multiple mid-level type players to give the team some productive bench players while its young players continue to develop.

Although a number of mock drafts have the Blazers taking a big man like Steven Adams, I'd be a little surprised if the club targeted a center with the No. 10 pick, considering Leonard remains a work in progress in the middle. Pairing Leonard with another rookie makes less sense to me than having him team up with a veteran who can help him develop. Hickson saw plenty of minutes at the five a year ago, but Portland figures to target a more traditional center rather than playing a power forward out of position again. Chris Kaman looks to me like a good fit, and Jermaine O'Neal has indicated he'd have interest in returning to the Blazers.

Assuming the Blazers don't target size in the draft, a shooter such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or C.J. McCollum would be ideal, as's Chad Ford suggests in his latest mock draft. It's also worth noting that Portland controls three second-round picks, at 39th, 40th, and 45th overall. After incorporating so many rookies a year ago, the Blazers will prefer to add veterans this year, so I'd be surprised if more than one of those second-round picks ends up on the roster next season. It's more likely that the Blazers will use those picks to either facilitate trades or to stash international players overseas.

A backup point guard behind Lillard also figures to be a priority, and the Blazers will have the option of extending a qualifying offer to Eric Maynor, who was acquired from the Thunder in a deadline deal. Given Maynor's performance and injury woes over the last couple seasons, his stock isn't exactly sky-high at the moment, so Portland may decide to pass on the QO and consider him along with a handful of other unrestricted free agents. Mo Williams, Devin Harris, D.J. Augustin, and Will Bynum are among the guys who also could be in the Blazers' price range.

A year ago, the Blazers attempted to make a huge splash by signing Roy Hibbert to a four-year max offer sheet, but they were thwarted by the Pacers, who matched the offer. Hibbert would have provided exactly the sort of rim protection Portland lacked in 2012/13, and it will be interesting to see how the team addresses that issue this summer. Of the top free agent centers, Dwight Howard isn't coming to Portland, Pekovic and Al Jefferson don't offer a whole lot in the way of rim protection, and a pursuit of the injury-plagued Andrew Bynum may cause a riot in Portland. As such, I think we're unlikely to see the Blazers make any huge bids on free agents like they did with Hibbert.

For Portland, this figures to be a summer of filling in a number of holes without spending exorbitantly on any one spot. With all their core players locked up through at least 2015, the Blazers have to focus on adding the right complementary pieces if they want to become a playoff team in the West. The success they have in finding those players may determine how long Aldridge remains in Portland — if the Blazers undergo another losing season in 2013/14, it will likely only be a matter of time before trade rumors start swirling.

Additional notes:

  • I focused more on free agent targets than trade targets for the Blazers, but trades are very much in play for Olshey. One asset to consider when Portland eyes a potential deal is Kostas Papanikolaou, whose agent expects the Blazers to move his client at some point.
  • The Blazers will continue to pay the amnestied Brandon Roy his salary through 2014/15. Assuming Roy doesn't sign elsewhere for the '13/14 season, which looks like a safe bet, he'll receive a $17.89MM salary from Portland.

Cap footnotes:

  1. Pavlovic's contract is fully non-guaranteed. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before January 7th, 2014.
  2. Maynor will be eligible for a qualifying offer of $3,351,387.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

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One thought on “Offseason Outlook: Portland Trail Blazers

  1. Choong huh

    fantastic article. it covers almost everything to very professional level. Among those veteran FA PGs, I think Devin Harris might be the most likely.

    I was imagining a JJ Hickson sign-and-trade that’ll bring Marcin Gortat to Portaltnd. Any prediction on who takes Hickson?

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