The best part about the end of a season is exactly that—it’s the end of the season. Teams get the chance to wash themselves of the bad and move forward with the good.
In the Portland Trail Blazers’ case, they’ll be getting rid of Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford, after already moving the more-than oft-injured Greg Oden, while hoping to add pieces around LaMarcus Aldridge through the draft, free agency, and possibly trades, potentially putting themselves back into the Western Conference playoff mix.
We’ve already taken a look at a couple of the many options the Blazers will be chasing down this off-season. But let’s explore a few more perfect fits for the Blazers, and how these additions could help Portland make a graceful return to their once dominant standing atop the West.
2012 NBA Draft:
The Blazers currently retain the rights to the Brooklyn Nets top-three protected first round draft pick, as well as their own pick, which in pre-lottery boards comes up at no. 11. The Nets tied with the Sacramento Kings for the fifth worst record in the NBA, and then lost the tie-breaking coin toss, landing them the sixth pre-lottery pick coming into this year’s draft.
That being said, the Blazers could potentially have two lottery picks in a relatively strong draft pool. Here’s how they should draft.
Pick 11: Kendall Marshall (PG, North Carolina)
Easily regarded as the best pure passing PG in the Draft—some call him the second coming of Boston’s Rajon Rondo—Kendall Marshall is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Trail Blazers.
After that disastrous Andre Miller-Raymond Felton swap during last year’s draft (none of us saw that giant meltdown coming), Portland gave up their slow-paced, meticulous half-court offense for an up-tempo game that failed miserably given the game plan that coach Nate McMillan had put in place.
Marshall will bring order back to the Trail Blazers’ offense.
Like Rondo, Marshall doesn’t live to score, but gets off by setting up his teammates for open buckets. In 33 minutes per game, he averaged 9.8 assists and 7.1 points as a Tar Heel. Imagine what he could do with LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, and Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum running rampant on the wings?
Pick No. 6 (via Brooklyn Nets): Trade?
Interim GM Chad Buchanan hasn’t been shy about the Blazers’ intent to package their draft pick(s) for already established talent in the NBA.
Our draft picks are going to be available. If there’s a chance to get an established, proven player using a pick, we will definitely go that route.
Portland’s biggest needs are clearly the PG and center positions. If they don’t end up trading their pick, they’ll likely take the best available talent; which many mock draft boards have down as Florida guard, Bradley Beal.
Another possibility would be pairing Kendall Marshall with his North Carolina teammate, Harrison Barnes.
Portland has two main concerns going into this off-season: re-signing Nic Batum and finding a quality, preferably defensive-minded big man to throw in alongside LA.
Omer Asik (C, Chicago Bulls)
Omer Asik never started over Joakim Noah for the Bulls, but Coach Thibbs never faltered in throwing him in late in the fourth.
Asik averaged one block per game, but only saw around 15 minutes of play time each night.
Given a bigger role in Portland—possibly a starting job—Asik could be the enforcer that the Blazers have so desperately needed since Oden’s series of unfortunate events. He’ll be a restricted free agent this off-season, which might make it difficult for Portland to get him, but if the Blazers can put together a good enough offer, Asik could make his way to Rip City.
Goran Dragic (PG, Houston Rockets)
One of the more highly sought after, yet low-key free agents, Goran Dragic is on the radar of several teams, including the New York Knicks and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dragic’s European style, along with a bit of polishing that came from playing alongside Steve Nash in Phoenix, has turned him into a big-time commodity in the free agent pool.
If Portland decides to forgo Kendall Marshall and package their picks for some veteran talent, rest assured Goran Dragic will be at the top of the list of free agents to snag.
And finally, we arrive at..
Head Coaching/General Manager
After firing Rich Cho last May and coach Nate McMillan earlier this season, the Blazers have two interim place-holders with Chad Buchanan as the temporary GM and Kaleb Canales coaching the team. If Portland’s going to make a dent in the West next season, they’ll have to get both positions solidified by the time free agency begins.
Two hot coaches on the market are ex-Orlando Magic head coach, Stan Van Gundy, and Golden State Warriors’ assistant coach, Michael Malone. However, if the Blazers don’t find a competent general manager, coaching will be the least of their worries.
According to HoopsWorld’s Alex Kennedy, Chris Mullin is a possible candidate for Portland’s general manager opening, and freshly fired Otis Smith (Orlando Magic) is on the market as well, but there hasn’t been much noise about prospective GM candidates in Blazer-land just yet.
Chris Mullin is in the mix for the Portland Trail Blazers’ general manager job, according to sources close to the situation.
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 22, 2012
Regardless of how they move forward, the Trail Blazers have an excellent core group of guys to build around. With LaMarcus Aldridge at the helm, Matthews and Batum on the wings, and the ridiculously talented Elliot Williams coming off the bench, Portland’s got a bright future ahead of them. Add in a possible re-signing of J.J. Hickson, and some smart off-season acquisitions and the Blazers will be right back into the middle of the Playoff hunt.
But for now, all we can do is wait for the cards to be dealt.