The Portland Trail Blazers find themselves at a crossroads they are very familiar with. They need to bolster their roster without breaking the bank.
With limited financial flexibility, the Blazers need to identify potential free agents who can provide solid contributions at a reasonable cost. In this article, we’ll explore five players who could be a boom or a bust for the Blazers and assess where they fit alongside Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, and, if he re-signs, Jerami Grant.
Each player presents unique opportunities and risks that the Blazers must consider.
Patrick Beverley’s on-court tenacity and defensive prowess make him an intriguing option for the Blazers, who were one of the worst teams in the league on defense last season. He possesses the intensity and perimeter defense that would perfectly complement Lillard and Simons’ offensive firepower.
However, Beverley’s character issues are a legitimate concern. His propensity for trash-talking and confrontations can sometimes overshadow his contributions on the court. If the Blazers can manage his temperament and leverage his defensive skills, Beverley could be a significant boom for the team.
Max Strus has been a revelation for the Miami Heat during their 2023 run to the NBA Finals. His ability to stretch the floor and knock down threes would undoubtedly benefit the Blazers, especially alongside Lillard and Grant. However, the risk lies in the potential price tag attached to his name.
If Strus commands a contract near $8 to10 million per year, similar to what Caleb Martin got from Miami, it might be a risky investment for the Blazers. Portland lacks a head coach like Erik Spoelstra, who maximizes his players skills – as evidenced by the many undrafted players contributing to the Heat’s current success.
Asking Strus to shoulder a larger load at small forward could lead to him struggling to replicate his success outside of Miami’s system, making him a potentially expensive bust.
Bismack Biyombo’s improved performance last season with the Phoenix Suns suggests he could bring value to the Blazers’ center rotation. Biyombo is 6-foot-8 with a 7-6 wingspan and could solve the Blazers’ need for size in their frontcourt. His defensive presence, shot-blocking ability, and rebounding skills make him an ideal fit alongside Nurkic.
While his offensive game remains limited, Biyombo’s primary role would be to provide energy and paint protection. The risk lies in whether his 2022-23 season was an anomaly or a sign of sustained improvement.
Although his rebounding ability has never been in question, his offensive and defensive ratings had been rather pedestrian since the 2017-18 season. The Blazers must evaluate if he can continue to contribute consistently before investing in him.
Justise Winslow’s injury history is undoubtedly a risk factor, but his familiarity with the Blazers’ system could work in his favor. Having played a season and a half with the team, Winslow already understands their offensive and defensive schemes. He is well-liked by the team and can provide solid minutes on the court.
When healthy, he has shown versatility as a playmaker and a capable defender. If the Blazers can mitigate his injury concerns and provide proper rest and recovery, Winslow’s comfortability with the team could lead to a significant boom in his performance.
Winslow may be willing to take a team-friendly deal, which could make the risk that he gets injured again worth it.
At 34 years old, Kevin Love’s age poses a significant risk for any team considering his services. However, Love’s experience, rebounding, and 3-point shooting prowess would be valuable for the Blazers, particularly as a floor spacer alongside their dynamic backcourt.
While the age-related decline is a valid concern, Love’s basketball IQ and veteran leadership could help compensate for any diminishing physical abilities. During his NBA Finals run with the Heat this season, Love has shown he can still play valuable minutes on a contending team.
The Blazers would need to manage his minutes and keep him healthy to extract maximum value from this potential boom-or-bust signing.
As the Blazers search for affordable free agents who can contribute meaningfully, they must weigh the risks and rewards of each player. Beverley’s character concerns, Biyombo’s fluctuating performance, Winslow’s injury history, Strus’s potential overvaluation, and Love’s age-related decline all present challenges.
However, if the Blazers can mitigate these risks and harness the strengths of each player, they could find themselves with valuable additions to their rotational depth. The boom-or-bust nature of these signings emphasizes the importance of prudent decision-making and proper player management.