The times, they are a-changin’
It’s no secret that the Portland Trail Blazers are in rebuilding mode. Their starting five is as solid as it comes in the NBA, but the rotation is hardly set, as the bench has been hands-down the worst in the Association.
The 2013 offseason will see changes take place in Portland, and hopefully the roster will have more depth and talent by 2014.
Jeffries was never an integral part of the rotation, but he was always fun to watch. In his one season with the team, he became known for his ability to take charges. It’s the little plays that make him a wily vet, and those are the things that will be missed by fans.
Everybody in Portland recognizes that Nolan Smith is as good as gone—even Smith himself.
“They have a path they want to go down and I’m not on that.” — Nolan Smith on future with Blazers
— Ben Golliver (@blazersedge) April 18, 2013
According to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, Smith recognizes that he will always be linked to the Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried. The extent to which fans resent Smith isn’t nearly as harsh as it is toward Greg Oden or Sam Bowie, but with Portland taking the point guard one spot ahead of the high-flying, hard-working forward, it’s been painfully clear which team got the better deal.
Smith is looking forward to free agency this summer—a summer in which he’ll try to find a team and a culture that can use his service moving forward.
Speaking of backup point guards, Eric Maynor could be another backcourt member departing once free agency begins.
Maynor has been an excellent addition to the Trail Blazers’ rotation. He’s been able to play alongside Damian Lillard, he’s provided competent play off the bench and he’s given the second unit a boost that it desperately needed.
So why get not re-sign the guy you got at the trade deadline?
Money. Money. Money.
The Trail Blazers have the ability to extend a qualifying offer to the 25-year-old, but there’s a chance they opt to let him walk. The $3.35 million offer isn’t what will scare them away, but a $5.85 million cap hold take away from money that could be spent on the free-agent market.
Maynor has potential to be solid in this league, but it will likely be on another roster.
Like the Blazers’ 2012-13 season, Luke Babbit’s time in Portland has been filled with ups and downs. Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, the bad heavily outweighs the good at this juncture.
Throughout his time in Rip City, Babbitt has gone through different phases. He began as a disastrous trade acquisition, finally caught fire and then came back down to Earth. Now, he’s extremely unnoticeable within the current roster, and he only received late-season minutes because of injuries.
Like Smith, the Blazers chose not to extend Babbitt this past offseason. His time in Portland is coming to a close, and you have to wonder when he’ll acquire the consistency to become a part of a solid rotation.
The JJ Hickson experiment has been a resounding success in Portland. He’s shot the ball extremely well, he’s seventh in the league in rebounding and he’s become a consistent double-double presence.
The problem is that he’s played himself into a lucrative contract—one that the Blazers would rather offer to a defensive presence.
If Portland needs to add anything next season, it’s a shot-blocker down low. Even if it can’t find someone to block shots, it needs a bigger body to challenge opposing big men.
Hickson is a high-energy player night in and night out, but he doesn’t have the physique he needs to start at the center position.
Hickson signed a one-year deal last season, and as it turns out, it was the best situation for both parties. The 24-year-old will earn some serious cash following a career year, and the Blazers will create cap space to bring in a long-term piece to the ongoing puzzle.
Fans won’t soon forget what Hickson did for them this season, but the chance of seeing him in Portland next year seems unlikely at this point in the process.