Silence is Golden
The Portland Trail Blazers have not made headlines during the 2013 NBA offseason. The team entered the summer with roughly $12 million to spend, and like most fans itching to succeed, the Rip City faithful assumed that the big-name free agents would be wooed to the their hometown with cash and a young nucleus as the primary selling points.
As it turns out, that move never took place, and the stars of the league avoided the Pacific Northwest in typical fashion.
But despite missing out on the game’s top talents, general manager Neil Olshey did something that didn’t seem possible at the end of the 2012-13 season. He made the bench worth mentioning, as he’s compiled a group of role players who are going to make this team more playoff ready than it ever was last year.
The summer began with the draft, and despite rumors that had the Blazers might move up to acquire a better player, Olshey played it safe. He knew that point guard C.J. McCollum would be available, and along with adding scoring to the bench, he allowed himself to clear cap space by not re-signing Eric Maynor.
The team also drafted Allen Crabbe, who is someone who can provide a spark at the 2-guard position, and Jeff Withey—a player who ultimately helped the Blazers obtain a center from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Although Withey has potential as a rim protector, his game is extremely raw, and he wasn’t likely to see the floor much right away. He was used as a pawn to acquire Robin Lopez, and he remains the only player—aside from European prospects—to actually be traded.
Like all of Portland’s acquisitions this summer, Robin Lopez is not a sexy pickup. He’s not going to draw free-agents to town in the future, and the sad truth is that he’s not the player LaMarcus Aldridge was hoping to play alongside moving forward.
That said, the big man is going to be the big body the team has needed, and despite having a medical history that will scare any Blazermaniac, he’s coming off a year that saw him play all 82 games, averaging 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 26 minutes per contest.
Along with Lopez, the move to bring in Thomas Robinson was another smart play on the part of Olshey. He didn’t have to give up any players in the process, and he was able to take advantage of a Houston Rockets team looking to shed cap space.
Portland had the money to spend, and it took full advantage of the situation by bringing in the No. 5 pick from the 2012 NBA draft.
When it comes to actual free-agent signings, Olshey made an under-the-radar move that will help the Blazers in one particular category—shooting. Dorell Wright is coming off a season in which he scored 9.2 points per game off the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers, shooting 39.6 percent from deep range in the process.
The best news for Portland? That shooting percentage is actually low for his career. He has been a 43.1-percent three-point shooter during his nine years in the league, and at 27 years old, he’ll be the long-range specialist the team has lacked for quite some time.
In Portland’s case, the big question that comes with adding depth is easy: Who is going to be the team’s starting center in 2013-14?
That’s an answer that has yet to be determined, but if the team sticks with Lopez in the middle, it’s going to be an upgrade defensively from what it had last year with JJ Hickson.
It’s possible that there’s a move yet to be made for this group, but the more likely scenario is that what you see is what you get. With Omer Asik unhappy playing behind Dwight Howard, the Blazers could take advantage of a player looking for a starting role; but that would once again disrupt the depth that Olshey has so strategically compiled.
Fans around the league won’t think twice about what Portland has done this summer, but fans in Rip City should be excited. This team is finally coming together, and it has a roster that has a real chance at making the postseason in 2014.