There is “a road to what we could do.” — Damian Lillard
“I want a chance to go for it. And if the route is to (draft youth), then that’s not my route.” — Damian Lillard
“We don’t want to go through this anymore.” — Joe Cronin
“If we want to actually do right by the best player in the history of the organization, we have to be aggressive.” — Chauncey Billups
“We all want the same things.” — Joe Cronin
The above quotes are from Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin, head coach Chauncey Billups, and Damian Lillard via an article by Jason Quick of The Athletic. The tweets are straight from the mouths of Cronin and a few of Portland’s key players.
The consensus? No more rookies. No more development. It’s time to acquire players who can contribute to winning immediately.
But there’s a catch to that – Cronin doesn’t have a ton to work with. The Blazers could go all-in and trade their current crop of young players, namely Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe, along with draft picks, to acquire one or two experienced players who would move the needle.
They need more help than that. In order to get it, Portland’s front office will need to scour the free agent bargain bin to find seasoned players of value who can fill roles in Billups’ scheme.
Here are 5 of them who aren’t perfect – there’s a reason they’ll be cheap – that would provide depth and value for what the Trail Blazers need to push for the playoffs next season.
1. Andre Drummond
Portland’s most significant – or biggest, if you will – issue in 2022-23 was its lack of size. Jusuf Nurkic is the only player on the roster taller than 6-foot-9, and he struggled to both stay on the floor and play well when he did.
Drew Eubanks filled in admirably, as did Trendon Watford in stretches as a small-ball center. Neither neither are big enough or good enough, however, to be counted on to play significant minutes and provide the size, rebounding, and rim-presence the Blazers need.
The soon-to-be 30-year-old has his warts. After playing in 79 games for Detroit in 2018-19, Drummond has changed teams seven times. He’s not as stuck in the mud as Nurk, but he’s a big, plodding center who can’t shoot free throws and has seen his minutes and production crater over the last three seasons.
He is, however, 6-10, 280 pounds, and has proven to still be productive in a reserve role in his 10th NBA season. The former ninth overall pick has averaged 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.2 stocks (steals plus blocks) in 13 minutes a game off the bench for the Chicago Bulls this year. He’s also been relatively durable, appearing in 67 contests.
Drummond won’t lock down the starting center spot (hopefully) but could combine with Nurkic to form a duo of large human beings who can stand near the rim and grab rebounds.
He has a player option for $3.3 million next season.