Quiet Night For Rip City.
On Thursday, June 26, fans will sit in front of their televisions and watch the 2014 NBA draft. For teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, the question is whether they’ll land Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid.
For the Portland Trail Blazers, the question is whether they’ll select anyone at all.
Portland, along with four other teams, has no picks in the upcoming draft. Barring a trade, it will mark the first time in 15 years that Rip City doesn’t bring in a rookie, and it’s going to create for a quiet night if you’re a fan in the Pacific Northwest.
As much as everyone loves to celebrate (and critique) the decisions made by general managers in the war room, having no picks isn’t the end of the world for the Blazers. In fact, most should consider it a blessing.
There’s no question that the Blazers need help off the bench. For numerous teams across the Association, that can be found through the draft; however, considering how young Portland’s second unit is, Neil Olshey is better off searching in free agency (as well as with trade partners) for a solution.
With the exception of Dorell Wright, who under-performed in 2013-14, and Mo Williams, who could seek a longer deal elsewhere in free agency, the second unit comprises more potential than it does production. Meyers Leonard saw his numbers fall in his second year, Thomas Robinson was inconsistent (albeit with flashes of brilliance) and Joel Freeland is just starting to come into his own when healthy.
Then there’s a guy like Will Barton, who proved he can be counted upon to score when given responsibility, but he was never able to replicate that success when playing alongside members of the startling lineup.
Production off the bench is a concern, but the lack of scoring, rebounding and attention to defense is emblematic of a larger theme: experience. Portland bringing in a young prospect to groom toward the future wouldn’t do any good, because as we saw this past season, expectations have shifted.
Despite being a playoff hopeful to begin the 2013-14 season, the Blazers quickly became a contender. The starting lineup improved with Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way, and having won its first playoff series since 2000, there’s no more “future” when it comes to success — the future is now.
Knowing how active Paul Allen and the Blazers have been in the past, it wouldn’t be groundbreaking to see a deal made on draft night to acquire a pick, or at least the rights to a player. We’ve seen plenty of trades come from this organization in the ninth hour, and seeing it again would feel on par with history.
The catch this time is, the Blazers don’t need to make a move on draft night to find the next key piece. There’s plenty of youth on the roster as is, and now it’s time to take the next step using free agency, trades and internal growth as the routes to success.