Quick: Offseason plans

Discussion in 'Portland Trail Blazers' started by Scalma, Jul 22, 2021.

  1. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    For nearly a decade, Neil Olshey has been making the decisions that shape the Trail Blazers’ roster, and never has he been faced with a more critical time than this summer.

    Olshey has had two summit meetings with franchise star Damian Lillard this summer — a three-hour tete-a-tete June 19 at the team’s practice facility and a Las Vegas meeting on July 16 that included new coach Chauncey Billups. Historically, Lillard and Olshey have always had an open line of communication, and this summer has been no different.

    In no uncertain terms, during the long meetings and back-and-forth text messages, Lillard has informed Olshey he wants upgrades to the Blazers’ roster. Lillard literally lost sleep over the Blazers’ first-round loss to Denver this season, and he wasn’t sure everyone else in the organization was as pained as he is. So he wants Olshey to surround him with better players, and more of them.

    Since Lillard became the franchise player in 2015, he has periodically delivered similar messages to Olshey. But this time, it is clear Lillard is more urgent, illustrated in part by his decision to do so publicly. And as Lillard has noted, he is now 31 and racing against time, which has intensified his thirst for a title.

    Lillard last week shot down a published rumor that he would ask for a trade in “the coming days.” That denial came during a media availability for Team USA after a practice in Las Vegas, hours before he would meet with Olshey and Billups. While Lillard made the trade-request denial, and said his intentions and heart were on staying in Portland, he stopped short of committing to Portland, where he is under contract for three more seasons, with a player option for a fourth. Lillard said he hasn’t made any “firm decisions on what my future will be.”

    Within the Blazers — both on the business side and the basketball side — Lillard’s call for accountability and action has been met with the appropriate alarm. No one yet is convinced he will request a trade, and as one executive put it, “I don’t think he wants to leave. He has built an empire here. But we have to assume he is leaving to make sure he is not leaving.”

    The franchise losing the best player — and person — who has ever donned the pinwheel logo is a fear within the halls of the Trail Blazers that has never been more real. Lillard wants to see meaningful improvement, which means the Blazers need to transition from being good to being great.

    But what does that look like? A blockbuster trade? An overhaul of the roster? A key free agent signing? A move into next week’s draft, where the Blazers have no picks?

    Here is a look at what Olshey and the Blazers are facing as the offseason officially begins next week with the July 29 draft, followed by the opening of free agency on Aug. 2.

    JULY 29 — THE NBA DRAFT
    The Blazers do not own a pick in the 2021 draft, the first round pick (No. 23 overall) traded to Houston last summer to acquire Robert Covington and the second round pick traded to Cleveland in 2019 to acquire Rodney Hood.

    Teams are calling the Blazers and asking for CJ McCollum, and in return offering Portland a chance to get into the top part of the draft. But Portland is not entertaining those offers because they are in a win-now phase, and looking for veterans more than rookies to build around.

    However, the Blazers are expected to try and buy their way into a second round pick to bolster a thin stable of youngsters that consists of Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little and CJ Elleby. Historically under Olshey, the Blazers have flourished in the second round, drafting players such as Will Barton, Gary Trent Jr., Pat Connaughton, Allen Crabbe, and Jake Layman, all who became NBA starters.

    AUG. 2 — FREE AGENCY
    The Blazers’ top free agent priority is re-signing Norman Powell, whom they acquired at last season’s trade deadline. The emphasis on retaining Powell comes from data that shows the starting lineup of Lillard, McCollum, Powell, Covington and Jusuf Nurkic last season had the NBA’s fourth best net rating among starters, behind Brooklyn, the Clippers and Philadelphia.

    Although Olshey has never publicly admitted it, he knows he failed last season in not recognizing a bench centered around Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter was fatally flawed from a defensive standpoint. If he can secure Powell, it is believed Olshey will turn his free agent attention to deepening the bench with long, rangy players who can play multiple positions and easily switch which players they can guard on possessions. A wrench in the plan to reconstruct the bench is that Olshey will have to invest in a backup center now that Zach Collins has undergone his third ankle surgery in 10 months.

    If Powell signs with Portland — which is far from guaranteed — the Blazers will have the tax-payer mid-level exception ($6 million). If Powell signs with another team, the Blazers will have the full mid-level ($9.3 million) to spend. During the same trip of the Lillard summit in Las Vegas, Billups met with Powell — who lives in Las Vegas — and communicated his vision to the wing. The hope is the hiring of Billups, who is a uniter and communicator, will inspire Powell to consider a deal in Portland, where Powell was part of the NBA’s best offense during his 28 games.

    Whether the Blazers have the full mid-level or tax-payer mid-level, it’s a limited crop in which to improve the bench. At wing, the Blazers could parse a free agent field that includes Nic Batum, Tony Snell, Alec Burks, Bobby Portis, Reggie Bullock, Otto Porter Jr., and Torrey Craig. At center, there is Nerlens Noel, Daniel Theis, and Willie Cauley-Stein.

    Because the Blazers don’t have significant money to lure a free agent, and because Portland isn’t a destination city because of the lifestyle, market and income tax, there are limited — if not non-existent — avenues for Portland to appease Lillard through free agent moves. Last summer, the Blazers with the full-mid level pursued Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Paul Millsap — only to finish as runner ups to the Clippers (Ibaka), Lakers (Gasol) and Denver (Millsap). The Blazers ended up signing Derrick Jones Jr., beating out Minnesota, Sacramento and Memphis for his services.

    TRADES
    This is where Portland has the greatest chance to improve quickly, but history shows that Olshey is more likely to get aggressive at the midseason trade deadline than during the summer.

    Olshey isn’t adverse to summer trades — it’s when he’s acquired Covington, Robin Lopez, Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore and Mason Plumlee – but his impact moves have come at the mid-season deadline, when he has landed the likes of Nurkic, Hood and Powell.

    Will Lillard’s urging tempt Olshey to be less conservative this summer?

    It likely depends on what McCollum can garner on the trade market.

    McCollum likely isn’t enticing enough to pry Ben Simmons from Philadelphia, even though their salaries virtually match. Olshey is known to be close friends with Daryl Morey, his counterpart in Philadelphia, but that friendship won’t be a factor whether Morey considers a McCollum-based offer, even if the pot is sweetened with young players like Anfernee Simons or Nassir Little.

    The aim for Portland is to elevate its number two player, which currently is McCollum. In the NBA, teams are largely based around two star players. The Blazers feel like with Lillard, it’s a fair fight against nearly every other top player in the league. But while McCollum is a talented player, they have realized there’s a steep drop when pitting him against other team’s second-best players like Anthony Davis, Paul George, Klay Thompson and after his recent finals run, Khris Middleton.

    So if Portland can’t improve its number two player, the focus shifts to upgrading the third, fourth and fifth best players in hopes that the sum of the Blazers’ parts can swing the pendulum in their favor.

    It’s not an encouraging landscape for significant change, as it appears Portland is headed toward having the same starting lineup with a different supporting cast. It has undertones of the summer of 2018, in the aftermath of third-seeded Portland being swept by sixth-seeded New Orleans. Amid the clamor for massive changes, the Blazers mostly stayed the course, and reached the Western Conference finals the next season for the first time in 19 seasons.

    There appears to be an inclination to run this group back again, with Billups holding the defensive reins more tightly than Terry Stotts, and seeing what a full season of Powell — should he return — could look like.

    Running back the same starting lineup may not align with what Lillard was envisioning, but it’s easy to forget the Blazers (42-30) finished tied with the fifth best record in the West, and the eighth best record in the NBA, despite McCollum missing 25 games because of a broken foot and Nurkic missing 35 games with a broken wrist and strained calf.

    McCollum was having his best season at the time of his injury, which included a marked improvement in defense (according to cleaningtheglass.com McCollum finished in the 88th percentile of players in defensive points per possession). Paired with Powell, who finished in the 93rd percentile in defensive points per possession, Nurkic (97th percentile) and Covington (78th percentile), the Blazers are banking on improved coaching to tie the defense together. (Lillard, by the way, was in the 14th percentile in defensive points per possession, while Carmelo Anthony was in the 11th, Enes Kanter 23rd, Anfernee Simons 32nd and Nassir Little fifth).

    Playing the patience card is a dangerous game for Portland, especially with Lillard’s unrest, but while the outside world is fixated on the word “change” for Portland, the operative word inside the Blazers’ offices is “improvement.”

    In the coming weeks, it will be up to Olshey to determine how closely those two words align. The future of the franchise, and perhaps the heart of the franchise player, depend on it.
    https://theathletic.com/2723147/202...ement-needed-to-meet-damian-lillards-desires/
     
  2. illmatic99

    illmatic99 formerly yuyuza1

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    lot to unpack here, i just posted this in the dame thread. prolly deserved one on its own.

    The most worrisome lines for me:
    It’s not an encouraging landscape for significant change, as it appears Portland is headed toward having the same starting lineup with a different supporting cast.

    Playing the patience card is a dangerous game for Portland, especially with Lillard’s unrest, but while the outside world is fixated on the word “change” for Portland, the operative word inside the Blazers’ offices is “improvement.”
     
  3. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    The way I look at is they could “run it back” and reevaluate mid-season and see just how much of a difference the new coaching staff/replacing Melo and Kanter made. They’ll have more data then to make a better decision. The goal is to be better come playoff time, not opening night.
     
  4. illmatic99

    illmatic99 formerly yuyuza1

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    Having this kinda outlook is just playing with fire w/ respect to Dame.

    Is a new coach potentially going to improve this team? Yes obviously.
    Is a new coach potentially going to make us a contender for a title? hell f'ing no.

    Dame has gone on record multiple times that he wants to be in title contention. Not just a good team.
     
  5. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    Btw I would love to know which teams near the top of the draft are calling about McCollum. My first guess is New Orleans.
     
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  6. B-Roy

    B-Roy Blazer Fan

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    This is interesting. Could we parlay McCollum in a three team deal that moves a high pick somewhere else?

    Fucking kill me.
     
  7. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    championships aren’t won on paper. The consensus last year was Portland had one of the best offseasons and that it was the deepest and most balanced roster they’ve had under Stotts. Then what happened? I don’t see anything wrong with waiting until the deadline to make more significant changes because we know literally nothing about Billups as a head coach.
     
  8. illmatic99

    illmatic99 formerly yuyuza1

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    Is Neil completely foreign to multi-team trades or is his FO too stupid to work out the math?
     
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  9. Natebishop3

    Natebishop3 Don't tread on me!

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    Fire Neil.
     
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  10. illmatic99

    illmatic99 formerly yuyuza1

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    I vehemently agree that Stotts was a major reason why we underachieved last year. But what was a our ceiling last year?

    Even Phil Jackson isn't making this roster a championship contender (even with marginal improvements to the bench). It appears from this article that the FO is satisfied making the 2nd round.

    While patience might be prudent, Dame's comments are in direct contradiction to this mentality. He has been screaming for urgency.
     
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  11. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    For the first time since he’s been here, it seems like the team has realized McCollum is not good enough to be the teams second best player. That’s a significant first step that hasn’t been acknowledged until now. Now we gotta find a trade partner. If Philly doesn’t think he’s worth Simmons, there’s not much Olshey can do except move on and find someone else.
     
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  12. B-Roy

    B-Roy Blazer Fan

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    It seems pretty obvious from Quick's conversations that he's not inclined to believe Olshey is willing to pony up the Godfather offer. He's gotten to the point where he's willing to trade McCollum, but thinking McCollum by himself is enough is just asinine. Fuck this idiot.
     
  13. Graduate32

    Graduate32 Active Member

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    On the positive side of things, the fact that Dame is proactively meeting with Powell indicates that he is genuinely invested in getting it done in Portland. It isn't just lip service to force his way out.

    Neil deserves a ton of blame here, but in my view, it will probably be less about what he does or doesn't do this summer. I don't blame him if he can't move CJ for an upgrade. It may literally not be available this summer, and as much as we might try to throw the kitchen sink at Simmons (or Butler, who might be sneakily on the list), those teams may just not be interested.

    Neil should be fired, but if he is fired, it has more to do with how we got where we are than what we do over the next two months.
     
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  14. blazerkor

    blazerkor Well-Known Member

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    The opinion of the best player in our franchise history is obviously that the roster is not good enough because he said it explicitly five days ago. If what Quick says is true I think Dame will be very unhappy. You might not see anything wrong with waiting until the deadline but I don't think waiting was one of the words Dame used but he did say urgency like twenty times.
     
  15. B-Roy

    B-Roy Blazer Fan

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    Seems like Olshey believes the starting lineup is actually the best offense in the league, based on 28 games in the REGULAR SEASON. But thinks the defense can be improved from 29th with just a few bench pieces. This guy is absolutely delusional.
     
  16. B-Roy

    B-Roy Blazer Fan

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    He didn't, Billups did.
     
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  17. illmatic99

    illmatic99 formerly yuyuza1

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    The FAs that apparently rejected us are interesting. Wonder if we could get any of them now.

    Also wonder if Minny/Sac/Mem are still into Jones now.
     
  18. B-Roy

    B-Roy Blazer Fan

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    Indiana
    San Antonio
    Golden State

    Indiana seems likely. They've been linked to McCollum and are aggressively trying to move #13. Problem is matching salaries. Lamb + Levert + 13 works. Lamb + Warren + Holiday + 13 works as well.
     
  19. Natebishop3

    Natebishop3 Don't tread on me!

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    To add to this, fuck the ownership group for not firing his ass. It should have been a full clean slate going into this offseason. I'm not sure why the hell they still have faith in Neil.
     
  20. blazerkor

    blazerkor Well-Known Member

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    I'm just hoping that Quick is full of shit because from everything I've heard and read he is no longer an insider at all but more of a columnist. So I'm clinging to that hope because the patience he seems to be implying that Olshey is going to continue to have will not fly with Dame.
     

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