3 Players that should be considered foundational pieces in the Blazers' rebuild

Before making essential offseason decisions, the Portland Trail Blazers should decide who is a core piece of their rebuilding process.
Portland Trail Blazers v New York Knicks
Portland Trail Blazers v New York Knicks / Sarah Stier/GettyImages
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3. Toumani Camara

The Blazers rookie had an up-and-coming season that put the league on notice. As a 24-year-old coming out of Dayton, Camara fell to pick No. 52 in the second round, where the Phoenix Suns selected him.

Camara came to Portland as part of the three-team trade with the Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, headlining Lillard. Despite the big names such as Lillard, Jrue Holiday, and Deandre Ayton being part of the trade, Camara was reportedly a significant focal point of negotiation between the Suns and Blazers. In retrospect, it makes sense why. Camara averaged 7.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game on 45/34/76 shooting splits in his rookie season.

Although he was only a rookie, Camara didn’t play like one. Head coach Chauncey Billups didn’t treat him like one, either, consistently giving him the task of guarding the opposing team’s best player.

At 6-foot-7, 226 pounds, Camara has the prototypical frame for a defensively switchable forward. The list speaks for itself, with names ranging from Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard to Anthony Davis and Domantas Sabonis, among other future Hall of Famers.

Another factor to consider with Camra is his extremely favorable contract. Camara is set to make roughly $2 million annually through the 2025-26 season, which bodes well for a rebuilding team like the Blazers. Portland is still trying to get out of its financial mess so that it can have more flexibility going forward.

Although the contract situation certainly helps make Camara be considered a core piece, it isn’t the main reason. The Blazers should keep him around for the long haul, even if that means spending more money. That’s because of the premium the league values a player like Camara. He's a lengthy, versatile forward who can be relied on defensively to slow down the opposing team's best player in isolation situations while seamlessly switching when needed.

Look at the current draft prospects as evidence—Matas Buzelis and Cody Williams have said they model their games after Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels.

While this is partially valid for both players, they must also know how much McDaniels' stock has risen since the Timberwolves' playoff run and how desperately other teams are trying to find their version of a defensively versatile wing. Even if he doesn't have the All-Star potential of Sharpe of Henderson, every NBA team covets an elite role player like Camara.

Combine this with his favorable contract and two-way potential as he continues to improve as a shooter, and Camara emerges as a somewhat surprising foundational piece to Portland's rebuilding efforts.