PDX Presser Reaction
The Portland Trail Blazers introduced Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright and Earl Watson as the newest additions on Thursday, and a press conference including Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts gave fans insight as to how the players were acquired.
If one thing is clear, it’s that Portland will be better in 2013-14 than it was last season. The Blazers may not be a championship team as is, but they’re one giant leap closer to making the playoffs.
This offseason should be considered a success in the eyes of most fans, and Thursday’s presser is just the beginning of an encouraging time in Rip City.
Robin Lopez Will Start at Center
Despite a summer full of speculation, Olshey made it clear on Thursday that Lopez is going to be named the starting center “from day one.”
The seven-footer comes to Portland having averaged 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during the 2012-13 season. He played in all 82 games, and his stats were compiled while playing in just 26 minutes per contest.
At 25 years old, Lopez may or may not be the long-term solution at the 5-spot. That said, he’s already an upgrade defensively from what Meyers Leonard has to offer.
Meyers Leonard has a more versatile offensive game, but he struggled mightily when it came to protecting the rim. That is where Lopez will look to specialize, leaving Leonard as an energetic option to come off the bench.
The Blazers May Have the Best Staring Five in the NBA
Now that the Blazers have their starting lineup set, it’s not too ridiculous to assume they may have the best collective starting five in all of basketball.
Olshey stated during the press conference that the team had the worst bench in the league “by design.” He wanted the starters to gain more experience, which is what gave them the best chance to succeed in the short-term.
Needless to say, the starters showed they could hold their own against the best that the NBA had to offer, as they were the highest-scoring unit when the year came to an end.
Flash forward to next season and you’ll find a starting lineup hungry to win. It’s true that they’ll play fewer minutes as a result of a bolstered bench, but making the most of their minutes will be a common theme, especially with a shot-blocking presence in Lopez clogging the middle.
Portland has ‘Filled the Voids’
It was clear when the 2012-13 campaign came to an end that the Blazers needed to add to the second unit. It was virtually impossible to find one area where the reserves excelled, but that’s not going to be the case moving forward.
Olshey: “Clearly there were voids on our roster that we needed to fill last year…Thomas was the first piece.”
— Comcast SportsNet NW (@CSNNW) July 11, 2013
Olshey spoke during the presser about filling the voids when it came to the bench. Shooting was a problem, scoring was a problem and rebounding was also a major concern.
Now, with players such as Dorell Wright, CJ McCollum and Thomas Robinson officially on board, those three categories should be addressed early in the year.
Don’t forget, either, that the biggest void of all was protecting the rim. Portland was arguably the worst in the Association in that category, but Lopez, while not being an elite defender, will be the kind of player who knows his role and helps the team make up for its biggest deficiency.
Earl Watson Will Mentor Younger Point Guards
If the signing of Earl Watson was confusing to you, you’re not alone. The Blazers have Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard starting, McCollum will back him up off the bench and there’s no real need for another point guard anywhere on this roster.
But while the Blazers may not need production at the 1-spot, guidance is a whole different story.
After hearing Watson talk, it’s clear that he’s going to come in with an open mind about his role. He’s not going to be an integral part of the rotation, but he is going to show the youngsters the ropes as a mentor.
Essentially, he’s going to be the Juwan Howard of the point guard position.
Watson spoke about entering the league and playing alongside Gary Payton, which gave him perspective on what he’ll do as a veteran. The former Seattle Supersonic showed him how to be a professional in the Association, and that’s something the now-34-year-old can do in Rip City.
Neil Olshey is a Crafty GM
If there’s one thing to take from Thursday’s gathering, it’s that Olshey is a clever general manager.
The GM entered the offseason with a boatload of cash and a lot of team needs to fill. Diehard Blazermaniacs wanted to see “The Big Move”—whatever that might be—but instead, he quietly added depth to a team that desperately required it.
Olshey spoke candidly about working with teams who were looking to shed cap space. But while all sides eventually got what they wanted, it was Portland that was able to conduct lopsided trades in its favor on more than one occasion.
The man in charge was even able to preserve a trade exception for later in the year. That detail, coupled with the fact that he strategically kept one roster spot open, allows him to swing yet another lopsided deal in his favor somewhere down the road.
Simply put: Olshey is a smart GM, and he’s not afraid to take advantage of someone else’s situation.
The Blazers are ready to hit the ground running, and it has everything to do with the team’s success during the offseason. “The Big Move” was never made in Rip City, but that doesn’t mean the future isn’t brighter at this point in the process.
Portland is ready to escape the dreaded rebuilding phase, and with the moves made by Olshey this summer, it’s looking like that’s bound to happen sooner rather than later.