As the off-season approaches, there's a lot for the Blazers to take care of. The laundry list of items sounds like what a brand new team would have: securing a coach and GM, making a splash in the free agent market, and re-signing key players.
Starting with the coaching situation, I feel it's too early to tell if coach Canales is the one for the team. A single digit game sample size isn't really indicative of what he could potentially achieve. One thing is for certain though, the Blazers are playing with a lot of heart and guts. He is clearly a player's coach. The boys want
to play for him and are putting forth more effort in late game situations than we have seen all season long.
Canales does a great job of mixing in young players and veteran players, giving guys like Luke Babbit a chance to shine when Nate (God bless him) would've likely sent him back to the D-League. He has possibly found an emerging perimeter threat for the team, something the Blazers have been lacking since Rudy Fernandez left the team.
If there is a knock I would have on the Canales-led team, it's that their defense has been leaky at times. Canales has a great grasp on the zone defense, but when it comes to man-to-man sets, the team ends up getting sliced and diced by competent guards, lighting up the defenses for triple-digit points at times.
If Paul Allen doesn't like what he see's from Canales, perhaps we could take a look at the likely-to-be-fired Stan Van Gundy. He has found a bit of success leading a team with an All-Star big man and a few solid guards. Sound familiar?
In the great search for a GM, Paul Allen needs to look no further, because we already have him. Interim GM Chad Buchanan has done a great job positioning the Blazers with ample cap space and getting players to rekindle the fire back into the team. His trade for sending Gerald Wallace to the Nets for a top three protected, likely top ten pick was an absolute steal. We ripped them off, plain and simple. Just for that, give the man the job.
Regarding the players, first and foremost the biggest priority for the team should be working out a deal to secure Nicolas Batum for the future. He is a key to this team and is another player that we should build around. He has stated that he'd love to stay in Portland, and the fans would love to keep him. Get it going.
Another key to the team is securing a point guard. Raymond Felton has played very well since Nate McMillan's firing, but I do not know if he is the point guard of the future. I was one of the chief Felton haters during the first half of the season and was pining for a trade, but since Canales has been coaching, he has played consistently well each game.
I would love to see the Blazers go after a player like Jeremy Lin or Deron Williams. Both are guards who are comfortable distributing the ball, but have a trait that has been needed desperately by the team; no fear of driving into the lane. Ever since Brandon Roy suddenly retired, they have not had a guard who was not afraid of taking it to the hole. Guys like Lin and Williams aren't afraid of doing this play after play. Bringing a little Linsanity to Portland would increase the Blazers chances of making it past the first round of the playoffs.
The Blazers could use a little spark and some high flying energy off the bench. Guess what? They already have that too! Keeping Elliot Williams on the squad would be great for the team. He was just about have a breakout season before his season ending shoulder surgery. Williams is the type of player that can come off the bench, throw a huge dunk and get the crowd back in the game. He'll be a great change of pace subbing in for Wesley Matthews.
The Blazers have a lot of work to do this off-season, but they have all the tools to do it. They have an All-Star power forward to build around with a group of solid players around him. They just need to lock a few positions before we can do it.