Kevin’s Master Plan to Fix the Blazers
There are two main areas of concern for Portland to address this offseason; adding bench depth and acquiring a defensive center. So, allow me to play armchair GM and build the team I think leads us to success.
The easier step to handle first is adding the defensive center that the Blazers want. J.J. Hickson was poor in defending the rim last season, and the Blazers are known to be looking to replace him with a veteran that can do that for them.
The Blazers have been rumored to want to trade their first round pick for that defensive center. Marcin Gortat of the Phoenix Suns strikes as a buy-low option after struggling last season. Gortat took a step back last season both offensively and defensively, but a change of scenery might do him good, particularly considering the Suns last season. In the past, Gortat was a tough defender with a knack for blocking shots, and he could return to that form in Portland.
Phoenix is looking for a first-round pick, and Portland could send their tenth overall pick for Gortat. They could also dump the contract of Joel Freeland, which pays him $6 million over the next two years, in the same trade.
Now, to fix the bench, one that ranked last in many bench stats and would benefit from a complete rehaul. After cutting Sasha Pavlovic’s unguaranteed contract from the roster, Portland will have about $13 million of cap space. Provided they can trust Meyers Leonard to continue to develop, Portland would still like to add 3-4 players as ideally, neither Victor Claver or Will Barton would be the primary backup at their position.
Free agency will likely be the go-to route for the Blazers in addressing their bench. With $13 million of cap space and eight players to sign (six which figure to be in the rotation), we can sign a guard, a wing, and a big man for a nine-man rotation and eleven total players.
I would choose to sign Jarrett Jack, Martell Webster, and Brandan Wright. Jack is going to receive some big offers in free agency, but Portland could offer around $7 million. That’s a decent upgrade from the $5.4 million he made last season, and he may like the idea of returning to Portland, a city he’s played for in the past, to be the sixth man. Jack can man both guard positions, capable of either backing up or complimenting both Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews. He’s a good scorer and a good playmaker, something the Blazers could use on their bench.
Portland can also get Wright for about $4-4.5 million and Webster, another former Blazers, for $2-2.5 million. Wright quietly finished 20th in PER last season and offers solid defense and energy. He can back up LaMarcus Aldridge and even fill in at center if Leonard proves to be incapable of too large a role at this stage in his career. As for Webster, he quietly had a bit of a bounceback season in Washington, and he’s a nice two-way player between his three-point shot and his defense. If he’s willing to rejoin the Blazers, he’d be a nice backup to Nicolas Batum.
To fill out the roster, Portland will have three second-round draft picks: #39, #40 and #45. Three rookies seem a bit much to add, particularly when second-rounders are unlikely to be impact players. Odds are that Portland dumps one or two of its draft picks for cas or a future pick, but those aren’t fun to deal for when I’m playing pretend so I’ll use all three to draft point guard Nate Wolters, center Colton Iverson, and small forward Solomon Hill in that order.
None of them are guaranteed any minutes with Portland, nor are they guaranteed to be deserving of any (which is fitting because there’s no guarantee that Portland will even have the pick they would use to draft them). That said, the opportunity exists for each of them. Wolters could battle Barton for a bit role as the fourth guard behind the sixth man Jack. Iverson can put some pressure on sophomore Meyers Leonard, and if Leonard can’t prove to be reliable, Iverson may get his chance. Hill, if he impresses, could slowly usurp Webster’s role.
My finished team looks like this:
- PG: Damian Lillard / Nate Wolters
- SG: Wes Matthews / Jarrett Jack / Will Barton
- SF: Nicolas Batum / Martell Webster / Solomon Hill
- PF: LaMarcus Aldridge / Brandan Wright / Victor Claver
- C: Marcin Gortat / Meyers Leonard / Colton Iverson