Rip City’s offseason makeover substantially improved the bench, giving it a few players who have been there are done that. However, the starting lineup also has players who fit the bill when it comes to having an experienced presence.
For the purpose of this assignment, veteran players will be defined as anybody who has played at least five seasons entering the new year. That means players like Wesley Matthews are excluded, as he is entering his fifth campaign in 2013.
Here’s a look at the top five vets as the Trail Blazers begin training camp:
Honorable Mention: Earl Watson
12 Years Experience
Earl Watson won’t earn much playing time this season, but his value is going to be found more as a mentor than an on-the-floor presence.
The 34-year-old has excellent floor vision and solid passing ability. What he also has is a ton of experience, and that’s where he’ll come into play. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and both young up-and-comers, and if the team can push for a spot in the playoffs, they’ll need someone to guide them along the way despite their incredible talents.
9 Years Experience
The Trail Blazers were the No. 20 three-point shooting team in the NBA during the 2013-14 season. They struggled to knock down the long-range jumper with any regularity, but that should change with Dorell Wright now on board.
Throughout his career, Wright has shot 36.7 percent from behind the arc. That doesn’t do his ability justice, though, as he can be a difference maker game in and game out.
10 Years Experience
In one of the most surprising signings of the offseason, Portland found a way to convince Mo Williams to sign with the team as a backup guard. His experience and scoring ability will help a bench that was historically bad just a season ago, and his shooting touch will allow him to play the off-guard spot if need be.
Along with his knack for putting the ball in the basket, Williams brings with him a winning background. His days with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were incredibly successful, and that’s a resume every team needs somewhere on its roster.
I’m back in Portland. Time to get a lil work in the young fellas until training camp.
5 Years Experience
The Blazers needed a big man this summer, and they found just that in Robin Lopez.
At 7’0”, the 25-year-old will clog the middle more efficiently than J.J. Hickson ever did. His ceiling isn’t as high as his brother’s (Brook Lopez), but he’ll be just what Portland needs him to be—an experienced big man who can alter shots at the rim.
5 Years Experience
With five years of experience, Nicolas Batum is the second-highest paid player on the Trail Blazers’ roster. He’s yet to prove he was officially worth the cash, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance along the way.
Offensively, the only thing fans can ask for is consistency. He’s proven he can knock down three-pointers—just not with regularity. He’s also shown an ability to get to the rim, but again, not consistently.
On defense, it’s all about living up to his potential. He has the frame to be a difference maker on the perimeter, but his advanced statistics haven’t shown it just yet.
Nobody in Portland wants to get rid of Batum, as he has one of the highest ceilings on the team. That said, fans need to see more production for an entire season, or else there will be a lot of unhappy people when it comes to his massive contract.
7 Years Experience
LaMarcus Aldridge is the undisputed star of this team, and while Damian Lillard is looking to take over that title, it’s the big man who is a two-time All-Star and arguably the best power forward in the game.
Aldridge’s time in Portland has been filled with ups and downs. He’s been through multiple rebuilds, and while he’s certainly seen success, he’s ultimately been cut short each time things look promising.
With a lack of postseason success under his belt, there’s the fear he’ll walk in free agency in 2015. The future is unclear, to say the least, but for the time being, he’s the best player entering his eighth season.