Five moves Portland GM Neil Olshey needs to make

Olshey’s summer should prove to be quite busy

So now that Neil Olshey has been general manager for all of 48 hours or so, let’s get down to the brass tacks of what he needs to do in Portland.

His general manager prowess will be determined on the moves he makes in the coming months, to get the Trail Blazers back to the level of play Rip City has come to expect.

While his first order of business has been to meet the press and become acclimated to the Portland environment, Olshey has a list of tasks ahead of him that need attention.

Assuming he reads this article, here are the five moves Olshey needs to make in order to get Portland in a comfortable position heading in to the 2012-13 season.

1. Bring back JJ Hickson

This seems like a no-brainer with the way Hickson played down the stretch for the Blazers. Picking up some of the slack left by LaMarcus Aldridge after his season ended, Hickson displayed some very solid play that should earn him the $4.4 million cap hold he would cost Portland.

Averaging nearly a double double in the month of April (14.8 points/gm, 9.2 rebounds/gm), JJ Hickson showed signs of why Cleveland coveted him as a prospect for so many years.

The backcourt of LaMarcus Aldridge and JJ Hickson, small as it may be, could prove to be very worthwhile for the Blazers next season.

Aldridge showed he can log minutes at the center position, and with Hickson’s athleticism, they could simply play the matchup game without solidifying one, or the other, at a specific position.

Neil Olshey

Don't let the ghosts of drafts past haunt you Neil, we need a winner in town now! (Photo: AP/Don Ryan)

2. Sign Steve Nash

Wouldn’t this be great?

We’ve already seen how Nash would be a good fit on the Trail Blazers, and really, it isn’t rocket science to see the impact a point guard like him would have on any team.

Hell, the next best player on his Phoenix Suns team is Marcin Gortat, and Phoenix was just barely denied a playoff spot this year. Imagine what he could do with LaMarcus Aldridge, or Nic Batum, or JJ Hickson.

Signing a player like Nash could have positive influences on not only the current roster, but whoever Portland decides to take in the upcoming draft.

Let’s say, for instance, Portland drafts UNC point guard Kendall Marshall, Nash’s pass first style could help Marshall hone his own game, and pick up where Nash leaves off if, and when, he retires.

This would be a win-win in my book, but Portland would have to do some serious courting to get Nash in the Pacific Northwest.

3. Correctly draft the team needs

This aspect of being a general manager seems to befuddle about 60% of those in that position.

Correctly scouting, and then drafting accordingly, is one of the hardest jobs in all of sports, and not just in basketball. Being able to identify the team needs, draft the correct players, and then reap the rewards of those players is no science; it should be referred to as dumb luck.

As the roster currently sits, Portland holds the second, and sixth, overall picks from the 2009 draft (Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn, respectively).

The 2009 draft was just 3 years ago! Both Memphis (Thabeet) and Minnesota (Flynn) thought they would be drafting future all-stars, but were left with what many consider to be draft busts.

Both ended up in Houston this year and came to Portland via the Marcus Camby trade.

Do you think a team could’ve traded Marcus Camby in 2009 for the #2 and #6 overall picks? Not a chance.

So drafting correctly is no small task for Neil Olshey, but this guy has been to a draft or two (assistant GM when Blake Griffinwas drafted and helped pull off the Mo Williams/Baron Davis trade), and should know how to identify the glaring holes Portland so desperately needs to fill.

Paul Allen

Just remember Mr. Olshey, get along with this guy, and we all win

4. Bring in some quality role players

This year’s draft greatly overshadows the free agent pool, but that certainly is not to say there aren’t solid veteran options available to teams this summer.

Neil Olshey was able to sign veteran guards Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler prior to the 2011-12 season for the Clippers and could bring in a similar veteran focus to the Trail Blazers front office.

While we’ve covered the reason why Olshey should woo Steve Nash, there are a couple other role players who could prove to be a nice fit in Portland.

One area that could use some depth in Portland is in the frontcourt. I’ve talked about how JJ Hickson would be a welcome return to the Blazer lineup, but outside of him and Aldridge, there just isn’t much depth to speak of.

Sure, Joel Przybilla is a fan favorite, and can certainly fight with the best of them, but he’s not the same guy Portland grew to love in the 2000s. Olshey needs to bring in some big, young forwards that can crash the glass when Aldridge, or Hickson, are getting a breather.

Two names instantly jump out when looking through the free agent list, that of Kris Humphries and Ersan Ilyasova, who could provide the sort of glass crashing Portland seeks from its second unit.

Both Humphries and Ilyasova saw plenty of minutes, as well as starts, for their clubs the previous year and would fit a whole lot better in to the Portland fold than Hasheem Thabeet or Chris Johnson.

For a more in depth look at how Humphries, or Ilyasova, could benefit the Blazers check out this previous NW Sports Beat article.

5. Get along with Paul Allen!

This last move isn’t so much a move as much as it will be a state of mind for Neil Olshey; we’ve seen the repercussions of what might happen if you don’t get along with Paul Allen.

Allen won’t hesitate to let Olshey go if he feels he’s either (a) the wrong fit or (b) just doesn’t see eye to eye with the owner.

Portland finally has a general manager that they can be happy about (for now, at least) so the last thing Blazer fans want to see is another Rich Cho situation unfold between Olshey and Allen.

With that said, the next few months will be very interesting for the Blazer’s as Olshey, and company, as they determine what direction they want to head leading into the 2012-13 season.

Do they have an active draft day, trading for veterans for a couple of strong runs, or do they build towards the future with the foundation of LaMarcus Aldridge, and bring in two lottery picks?

Although the scene was very grim at the end of last season, Neil Olshey should prove to be the positive change Portland needs to get back on track.

Having helped turn around one of the saddest franchises in the NBA, Olshey should feel right at home helping right the ship here in Portland.


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  • Duck4life

    Nash is way to old for the money he will be offered. I would like them to go after Bledsoe from the Clips who Olshey knows pretty well. This is not a one year fix with this team, they are again several years away from being at the top of the conference. Build for the future not the present because this team is not one or two quick fixes away from being contenders unless you can go back and draft Durant and Chris Paul instead of Oden and Webster.

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