What Can Blazers Do This Off-Season to Reach the Next Level?


wesley matthews blazers

Like we are currently seeing in the NFL, the 2011 NBA off-season is up in the air with a lockout looming.  Free agency could be delayed and completely restructured depending on the new agreement reached by the owners and players.  Still, The Sports Bank continues to break down all thirty NBA teams to see what areas they need to address in the off-season.

The Portland Trail Blazers have made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, but have not gotten past the first round.  This off-season, Portland looks to put the pieces together in hopes of becoming true NBA title contenders.

By: David Kay

Portland Trail Blazers (48-34 last season)

’10-’11 Season in Review:
Considering all the injuries the Blazers suffered this past season, it is pretty impressive that they still finished with the sixth best record in the competitive Western Conference.  Brandon Roy battled knee injuries, forcing him to miss almost half of the season and limiting his effectiveness when he was on the floor.  Greg Oden missed the entire season for the second time in his career while Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla also missed significant time due to injury.

With those frontcourt players all banged up, that put a lot of pressure on LeMarcus Aldridge who more than answered the call, posting the best numbers of his career and emerging as the team’s go-to scorer.

As Roy struggled to stay healthy, the Blazers got solid production on the wing from free agent signee Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, with Rudy Fernandez playing an important role off the bench.  Portland added to their talent at forward prior to the trade deadline by stealing Gerald Wallace from the Bobcats for three expiring contracts and first round pick.

Andre Miller remained an ironman on the court, although he did miss just his sixth games in his twelve-year NBA career.  Miller has never been known as a big-time scorer but served as a true floor general for a still fairly young Blazer team.

While the Blazers made the post-season for the third straight season, it was also the third consecutive year that they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round.  The challenge this off-season is to continue to add to this young and still up-coming team and try to build a roster that can get Portland past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Marcus Camby/^Greg Oden
PF: LeMarcus Aldridge
SF: Gerald Wallace/Nicolas Batum/Luke Babbitt
SG: Wesley Matthews/Brandon Roy/Elliot Williams
PG: #Andre Miller/Rudy Fernandez/Armon Johnson

Free Agents:
#PG-Andre Miller (TO)
^C-Greg Oden (RFA)
PG-Patrick Mills (UFA)
C-Chris Johnson (UFA)
PF-Earl Barron (UFA)

’11-’12 Team Salary: Approximately $68.9 million

Off-Season Needs:
1. Frontcourt Depth:
This much we know, if Greg Oden is retained by the Blazers he cannot be counted on due to his injury history.  Add in the fact that Marcus Camby is getting up their in age and in the final year of his contract, and Portland needs to add some depth in their frontcourt.

2. Point Guard:
More than likely, the Blazers will keep Andre Miller for the final year of his contract but the team will still be in search for a point guard of the future or up-grade behind Miller.  Patrick Mills is a free agent, leaving Armon Johnson as the only back-up point and he only appeared in 38 games this past season.  Rudy Fernandez is capable of running the offense as well but is not a true floor leader.

(Side note: I think Portland should make a run for Chris Paul if he becomes available.  They have expiring contracts like Miller or Camby and young talent like Batum or Fernandez that could be packaged with draft picks to pry CP3 from New Orleans.)

3. General Manager:
It is somewhat confusing why a team like the Blazers that has done such a solid job in re-building the image and roster of their team is now searching for their fifth general manager in six years after Rich Cho was fired just ten months into the job.  The team’s director of college scouting Chad Buchanan will serve as acting GM, but owner Paul Allen will search for a permanent replacement in someone who can provide some stability to that position and try to bump the Blazers to one of the elite teams in the Western Conference.

OTHER NBA TEAM NEEDS PAGES:
ATLANTA HAWKS
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
DETROIT PISTONS
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
HOUSTON ROCKETS
INDIANA PACERS
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
MILWAUKEE BUCKS
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
NEW JERSEY NETS
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
NEW YORK KNICKS
PHOENIX SUNS
SACRAMENTO KINGS
TORONTO RAPTORS
UTAH JAZZ
WASHINGTON WIZARDS

CHECK OUT MY NBA FREE AGENT POINT GUARD RANKINGS

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CHECK OUT MY NBA FREE AGENT SMALL FORWARD RANKINGS

CHECK OUT MY NBA FREE AGENT POWER FORWARD RANKINGS

CHECK OUT MY NBA FREE AGENT CENTER RANKINGS

CHECK OUT THE SPORTS BANK’S 2011 NBA MOCK DRAFT

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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