Blog Contest: Looking Forward (Repost)
By hedg5540 Posted in: Blazers
Thinking back to December and the beginning of the season, I recall being excited about our team and the months ahead. Even with the news of Brandon Roy's retirement and yet another set back with big-man Greg Oden, the Blazers entered the season with high energy and great team chemistry; and for the first stretch were a fun team to watch. Unfortunately, we all know too well the unraveling that soon became our beloved Blazers. Now, with the changes made at the trade deadline and the new additions to our roster, the energy and excitement have returned to the rose city during these last few games. Thus, my wish list for this off season is short and simple.
While there are those out there that believe the best thing for this team would be a complete blow up and rebuild, I highly disagree. Rather the current roster shows much potential with the addition of Hickson to back-up or complement Aldridge at the 4 or 5, the improved play of Felton followed with the speed of Flynn at point, and the depth and versatility with Batum, Matthews, Babbitt, Crawford, and Williams being able to rotate through the 2, 3, and even 4. All in all Coach Canales has shown some creative, yet functional, rotations available with the guys we have now. So what's to change? Two things. In order to raise their level of competition, the Blazers undoubtedly need a strong big man at center and a more professional starting point guard.
Though Rip City has all the love in the world for Przybilla, the fact of the matter is he and Thomas both are nearing the end of their careers and not viable go-to centers for long minutes. On the other hand, while Hickson and Aldridge are both capable of making the rotation to center and have shown they can work well together, going small can certainly be a disadvantage in games (such as Monday night's loss to Utah) where the opposition plays big. Lastly, looking at Craig Smith and Thabeet, although there is much potential between the two, they are certainly not of starting caliber at this point in their careers.
Fortunately, both free agency and the draft will have something to offer the Blazers this off season with regards to a quality center. First, shopping the free agent market, the Blazers would be smart to go after restricted free agent Roy Hibbert from the Indiana Pacers. Still a young man at age 25, Hibbert arguably belongs among the top ten active centers in the NBA, averaging 12.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. At 7' 2” and 260 lbs., Hibbert would provide us the much-needed size, while also having the experience lacked by our current big-man, Thabeet. However, if the Blazers choose to strengthen through the draft, Andre Drummond should be first on the Blazers' list. A freshman center out of the University of Connecticut, Drummond averaged 10.0 points, shooting 54% from the field, and 7.6 boards. Unfortunately, picking from the draft is always an uncertainty, and more times than not picks require time to adjust and grow, a luxury Portland does not necessarily have at this position.
At point, although Felton has been playing considerably well since the departure of Coach McMillan, fans cannot ignore his out-of-shape entry at the beginning of the season, his frustratingly poor play through the first 40 games, or the principle role he played in the mutiny against Coach McMillan that ultimately led to his release. In addition, though improved, Felton's play still remains inconsistent with crucial errors that have proven costly (think dribbling off his own big foot) down the stretch. Unfortunately, since there is not much for talented point guards in the draft or on the free agent market this year, Portland's best option is going to be to try and woo Deron Williams from NJ to the rose city. Otherwise, Blazers will most likely be forced to spend way too much for a veteran point such as Steve Nash, who is nearing the end of their career, on a short-term contract while we work to develop Flynn and Smith (both of whom have amazing potential but are not yet of starting caliber).
Contrary to the beliefs of many, it should not be part of the discussion for Blazers to walk away from Jamal Crawford this off season. In addition to parting ways with Raymond Felton and Shawnee Williams (acquired in the trade for Wallace that never suited), the Blazers would be safe in not retaining Thabeet in order to make room on the roster for the above additions. Though Thabeet shows great potential for the future, he still has much developing to do to pass the quality of our other current back-up centers. The exception there may arguably be veteran Kurt Thomas who, with one year left on his contract, the Blazers could possibly choose to waive or not suit if the option was financially viable.
Finally, with regards to the search for a head coach and general manager, I would like to see the Blazers officially hire both Kaleb Canales and Chad Buchanan. Personally, I have a lot of respect for Coach K., and although I do not always agree with his calls, have enjoyed watching what he has done with the hand dealt to him. Before deciding whether or not to part ways with him, Paul Allen should first allow him a full season to show what he can really do. As for the GM position, it is not a matter of a man's ability as a GM or his resumé that has proven to be the decisive factor in the equation here in Portland. Rather, it has been a matter of chemistry and a GM's ability to communicate effectively and get along with owner Paul Allen, at which Buchanan seems adequately capable.