There is a good chance that the Blazers will look very different in just a few short months. They began preparing for their reformation the instant the regular season ended with the release of power forward, Jared Jeffries. He was one of many expendable pieces on Portland’s roster this year, and the Blazers have ample remaining options when it comes to trimming the fat.
Of the 14 remaining Blazers, only 8 of them are guaranteed a return (barring trade):
You’ll notice that all of these players are either starters or rookies. That’s great news, because Portland’s core is already strong and they don’t have to worry about retaining any major pieces this year; providing an ideal opportunity for bench improvement. It also means that the following players are on the chopping block:
It is already public knowledge that Nolan Smith and the Blazers intend to part ways in free agency, so who else will be getting the axe?
- J.J. Hickson [Chances of leaving: 90%]
Hickson has earned a colossal payday with his play this season; one the Blazers cannot afford. Fortunately for Portland, they are looking to find a more defensive center anyway. In order to be valuable to the Blazers now, Hickson would have to take a pay cut and come off the bench. Not happening.
- Eric Maynor [Chances of leaving: 60%]
The Thunder traded Maynor to the Blazers mid-season for a trade exception. While he was a good pickup at the time, the Blazers would be better off testing the free agent market for a more experienced combo guard than keeping him. He will likely test the market, himself, as there are bigger, brighter stages to perform on.
- Luke Babbitt [Chances of leaving: 50%]
I know people like to hate on Luke Babbitt, but he’s actually… he’s really… he’s just… actually, no; I’m one of them. Well, ‘hate’ is a strong word. I just think that he’s not developing the way he should be and a fresh start would be better for both him and the Blazers. Stotts’ virtually Babbitt-less rotation would indicate a desire to shake things up without him.
- Elliot Williams [Chances of leaving: 20%]
Honestly, E-Will is a stellar player, he’s just missed a lot (and I mean a LOT) of playing time due to injury. Portland has expressed an interest in keeping him and he has expressed an interest in staying. We may finally get to see him rocking rims again now that he’s “healthy,” but those quotation marks should concern you. Portland has been burned before.
- Sasha Pavlovic [Chances of leaving: 70%]
Sasha was OK this year, but that’s it. He surprised me with a couple crunch-time 3 pointers later on, and he’s not without experience, but he peeked much earlier in his 10 season career. With the likely return of Elliot Williams and Portland’s desire to fill out the bench with better players, there may not be room for him this Fall.
If I were a betting man, I’d say that the only Blazer Free Agent to return to Portland will be Elliot Williams. Neil Olshey is eager to roll up his sleeves, clean house, and redecorate. I am more than ok with this. In fact, we may be in for the biggest off-season in recent memory. The current total value of Portland’s free agent contracts is about $13.5 million; which I trust Olshey to use wisely for 2013-2014. Nostalgia can pose a threat to excellence in this game. Out with the old; in with the new.