Media credentials contest: An off season of potential
By Jordan Bird
Regardless if the Blazers make or miss the playoffs this year, I'm viewing the 2011-2012 season as a success. The moves upper management made before the trade deadline set the tone for the future in a positive way. Having two potential top four 1st round picks in one of the strongest classes in the last few years is a huge boost to a Blazers team that has felt the powerful touch of the lockout shortened season.
Another angle that is going to make this off season exciting is the fact that the Blazers are a crisp 24 million dollars under the cap. With all of that money, the Blazers have a chance to make a run at another superstar to play along side of LaMarcus. In this post I'm going to break down what I feel the Blazers should do with the two draft picks and the 24 million dollars we have to spend.
The final off season need that needs to be filled is the heading coach position and the general manager position. I'll go more into detail later on in the post.
24 million dollar questions
What to do with all of that money? First thing is first. Pay Batum. I've been saying all year the Blazers need to pay that man. I believe he wants to stay here and he has more than earned a good deal. LaMarcus can't do all the scoring by himself, Batum can be that number two and has proved time after time he can be that second scoring option.
The superstar we should go after is Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers. Half way through his fourth season he is setting career highs in minutes played (29.9), field goal percentage (49.9%), total rebounds (8.6), offensive rebounds (3.2), and points (12.9). He is also at 72.5% free throw shooting for his career, which is impressive for a big man. He'd be a huge addition to the Blazer's front court and take some of the offensive load off of LaMarcus.
The last thing the Blazers need to do is sign J.J. Hickson to a multi-year deal. He has shown he can play the game of basketball at a high rate. He showed the NBA that when he was the man in Cleveland the first year after Lebron James departed to Miami. Plus, that dunk on DeAndre Jordan was just nasty.
The NBA Draft
Our fate in this year's NBA draft relies on the New Jersey Nets and a lot of luck. As of right now the New Jersey Nets have the fifth worst record in the league while the Blazers have the 11th worst in terms of winning percentage. In order for the Blazers to get the Nets first round draft pick this year the Nets need to get fourth or worst pick in lottery this year, it's going to be nerve wracking to say the least. But, for the sake of this post let us say that the Blazers finish with the 11th worst record and the Nets finish with the fifth worst and that's where both picks fall. The Blazers gets both the fifth pick and the 11th pick.
The Fifth Pick
Assuming that Anthony Davis goes first, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist goes second, and Thomas Robinson third. It leaves a lot of great players for the Blazers to choose from. Again using assumptions I'm going to assume we get Roy Hibbert from free agency, which in turn lessens our need for a big man, I believe with the fifth pick the Blazers take either Harrison Barnes from North Carolina or Andre Drummond out of the University of Connecticut. Both would be extremely strong bench players that can come off the bench and produce right away. I know I said earlier our need for a center lessens with the addition of Roy Hibbert but I've always believed taking the best talent that's available. Plus, with our recent sour luck with big men any addition would be a bonus. My reasoning behind Harrison Barnes is that until recently the Blazers have had some trouble scoring when the starters sit. Jamal has been streaky and Luke Babbit wasn't playing like he is now. Harrison Barnes can score, flat out. He can create his own shot and is good in the clutch which is something the Blazers have lacked all season. With him playing behind Batum it would be a nice addition coming off the bench, plus in time Batum could help him with defensive assignments.
The Eleventh Pick
This pick should be used on a guard of some type. My pick would be Kendall Marshall out of North Carolina. He is without a doubt the best point guard in the nation and as we all know, we could use another point guard. I believe despite Raymond Felton's strong performance since the firing of Nate McMillan he won't be around next year. With his departure we are left with Jonny Flynn and Nolan Smith, two players I'm not too excited about. Kendall Marshall would be a nice addition to the mix to create a point guard competition which hopefully will elevate the play of our guards.
Filling The Needs
Probably the biggest need for the Blazers this off season is filling the role of head coach. Kaleb Canales has been a blessing for a team that needed it most, however, I don't feel he is the long term answer. There are a lot of different potential coaches the Blazers can go after, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown, and more recent Stan Van Gundy may be without a job this summer. There are multiple options for the Blazers to choose from. It will be interesting the direction Paul Allen and the Blazers take.
With the controversy of our general manager search I believe Chad Buchanan is the man for the job. He has shown a Kevin Pritchard like ability to pull off beneficial moves at the last minute. He should be granted the position of general manager going into the NBA draft. He understands the needs of the team and what we need to get back into the playoffs.