trailblazers

Missing pieces to the 2013/14 Rip City puzzle

Necessary upgrades

If you take a look at the Portland Trail Blazers, there are a number of players who are expected to be gone for the 2013-14 season. With that in mind, there are a few places on the roster that desperately need an upgrade.

Portland’s season was full of both success and disappointment. There are a few places where the future looks bright, but there are also spots where we simply don’t know what to expect.

The Blazers have another big summer ahead of them, and while they might not make as many headlines as last offseason, they’ll certainly look to make a splash as the rebuild continues.

Starting Center

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Sacramento Kings

J.J. Hickson will likely be gone in 2013. (Photo: AP)

The Trail Blazers have one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. They have talent, scoring and the ability to log a huge number of minutes, but the problem is that they lack size and interior defense.

The Blazers need to address the starting center position, especially with JJ Hickson’s future up in the air.

During the 2012-13 season, Portland was the worst team in the league when it came to scoring down low and protecting the paint. A big body with a defensive mind has to be No. 1 on the prospects list, and if he can score, that will be an added bonus.

Aside from Dwight Howard—everybody’s dream center—free agents who fit the description are Chris Kaman, Nikola Pekovic, Al Jefferson and, of course, Andrew Bynum.

Backup Point Guard

The entire bench needs an upgrade in Portland. The reserves averaged the fewest points per game in the league by a long shot, and that’s the biggest reason the starters played so many minutes, wearing them down as the season progressed.

The question at backup point guard was answered at the trade deadline, but while Eric Maynor has been a breath of fresh air, he’s looking more and more like a temporary place holder—his qualifying offer would place a substantial $5.85 million cap hold while Portland enters free agency.

Damian Lillard has shown that he can handle seeing the floor.

He played the most minutes in the NBA in 2012-13, but the question is, do you really want him receiving such substantial time? The rookie has shown that he is the future of this organization, which means preserving his legs will be a focus when the team finally returns to the postseason.

If you’re GM Neil Olshey, you don’t need to bring in a star to play behind Damian Lillard. A modest role player will suffice, so long as you can trust him with the ball to make smart plays and avoid mistakes.

Wes Matthews

Wesley Matthews needs help at 2-guard. (Photo: Spruce Derden/US PRESSWIRE)

Shooting Guard

Wesley Matthews is a very good player. He’s the heart of soul of the perimeter defense, he’s a near-40 percent three-point shooter and he’s established himself as the true vocal leader on a young, inexperienced roster.

That being said, he can’t hold down the shooting guard spot alone, as Will Barton has a lot to learn if he wants to become a reliable player.

The Blazers need to do one of two things this summer. Option No. 1 is to find a player who can help add toughness off the bench, and is willing to play behind Wesley Matthews.

Option No. 2 is one a lot of people won’t like, but if the team can find a more talented option in free agency, moving Matthews to the bench would be the answer to adding depth to the roster.

The backup power forward spot is also a concern, but with LaMarcus Aldridge establishing himself as one of the best 4’s in the game, the 2-guard position has to be a higher priority.

You can make a case that every position on this roster needs to be upgraded off the bench, but at shooting guard, there’s some flexibility when it comes to changing roles and bringing in new talent.

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About Bryant Knox

NWSB Editor. Portland native and Oregon graduate, On a non-stop mission to consume as much Ducks+Trail Blazers content as humanly possible. His love of sports is what attracts him to the game, passion for writing drives him to uncover the stories. Connect w/ Bryant today!
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