Hold Your Head Up!
As bleak as the future may have looked over the past couple of years for the Portland Trailblazers and their fans, success may be just around the corner.
With the addition of a couple of pieces here and there through the draft and free agency, the Blazers found themselves in contention for a playoff spot for a good chunk of the 2012-13 season. Now before we get ahead of ourselves, the reality is, the team is still one or two pieces away from being a legit top-eight squad in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately for the following three (possibly five) individuals, the chances of them making the final cut come opening night is pretty slim.
A first-year player out of Memphis, Will Barton was selected by the Blazers with the 40th-overall pick in the 2012 draft. After receiving spot minutes for most of November, as most second-round rookies would have, Barton started to see significant minutes (for a rookie) coming off the bench as the season progressed.
At the season’s end, Barton found himself playing twenty-plus minutes per game, including a forty-eight minute season-ending affair against the Golden State Warriors.
With season averages of 4 ppg, 2 rpg and 1 apg, Barton showed potential to be a piece of the Blazers’ future. Unfortunately for “Will the Thrill” the 2013 draft may have changed all of that.
Damian Lillard will combine with either C.J. McCollum or Wesley Matthews as the Blazers’ starting backcourt, while Watson, Crabbe and whoever of the McCollum/Matthews duo doesn’t start will receive the majority of backup minutes off the bench.
Barton proved that he can play in the NBA, it just might not be in Portland.
I know….who? While he may possess an NBA Championship ring as part of the 2011-12 Miami Heat, few know who Harris is, and chances are that even fewer will know him come the start of the 2013-14 season.
As part of the logjam in the backcourt, Harris, as with Barton, will not only have to fight for minutes, but a roster spot as well come training camp.
Undrafted in 2009, Harris was picked up by the Heat in 2012. Then, following a spot on the waiver wire, he found himself signing a couple of ten-day contracts with the New Orleans Hornets.
Signed by the Hornets at the end of March for the duration of the season, Harris was traded in July by the newly tabbed Pelicans to Portland with Robin Lopez. While summer league stats are to be taken with a grain of salt, Harris didn’t exactly light Las Vegas on fire during his four-game run.
The recent addition of Thomas Robinson could make Joel Freeland expendable. As the fifth-overall pick out of Kansas a year ago, Robinson has quickly figured out the business of the NBA, with Portland being his third team in his short career. Many figure that Robinson will replace the energy that J.J. Hickson brought to the team.
As I write this, I find myself thinking more about what Thomas Robinson has to offer the team than what Freeland does, which may just be exactly what other Blazers fans and the front office are thinking as well. Freeland saw only 51 games of court action in his rookie year, averaging just under 10 minutes of play.
With 2.6 ppg and 2.3 rebounds, losing Freeland isn’t going to hurt the Blazers much and those numbers can easily be replaced by Robinson.
LaMarcus Aldridge/Wesley Matthews
Chances of either of these two players not being part of the Blazers rotation come opening night is a little far fetched.
However, with rumblings this offseason about Aldridge not being happy in Portland and the drafting of McCollum, there is always a slight chance that the Blazers may look to capitalize on relocating one of the two.
Moving Aldridge would certainly take the franchise two steps (or more) back, but rumors have been circulating for weeks about his unhappiness in Portland.
While he has been a franchise fixture since his first day with the team, if he isn’t happy and motivated, the team would be best to move him for something of value and do it before training camp starts rather than have to mesh someone new on the fly.
Matthews is a bit of a different story. From all accounts, Matthews is happy in Oregon; however, the addition of McCollum, combined with Matthews’ health issues, could lead to moving the fifth year guard.
If either of the two were to be moved, chances are it would be Aldridge, who brings back higher return value.