In his latest piece for Grantland.com, Zach Lowe focuses on the Trail Blazers, and the path of the franchise that hasn't gotten past the first round of the postseason since 1999/2000. As Lowe writes, Portland is aiming to follow in the footsteps of teams like the Rockets or Pacers, going from mediocre to great without bottoming out or taking on big, long-term contracts for veterans. Here are a few of the highlights from the column:
- Several rival executives who are pessimistic about the ceiling of the Blazers' core of Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and LaMarcus Aldridge believe that a full-fledged rebuild, 76ers-style, would be in the team's best interest, says Lowe. However, owner Paul Allen isn't interested that approach.
- "Paul Allen has never wanted to rebuild," said GM Neil Olshey. "He does not want to take three steps backward in order to take four steps forward. So we decided we were just going to have one foot in, and one foot out." Olshey's "foot in" involves bolstering the bench enough that the Blazers should compete for a playoff spot, while the "foot out" means maintaining enough long-term flexibility that the team will have max cap space in 2015.
- Lowe wonders if the young "upside" pieces on Portland's roster would be enough to eventually land a star, in the same way the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett or the Rockets snagged James Harden. However, without making Lillard available, the Blazers may not have the necessary assets for such a deal, in Lowe's view.
- The Blazers will keep all their options open if the 2013/14 season goes badly, but Allen's aversion to rebuilding is real, so trading Aldridge may not be viable. Lowe suggests a number of hypothetical trade partners and packages, but Olshey doesn't consider his young big man to be a trade candidate: "It's not on our mind, and it's not on his, either. LaMarcus just wants to win. He wants to win tomorrow night. He doesn't want to hear about having cap room two years from now."