2011 NBA Offseason: Portland Trailblazers

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Portland Trail Blazers (Last Year: 48-34)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

First off, I think Portland gave up a little too much to get Raymond Felton who could leave after one season since he is a free agent next summer. Add that with the fact that they reached for Nolan Smith at 21 and Jon Diebler at 51, and the Blazers had an interesting draft night while ignoring their need for frontcourt depth. Smith gives them a backup point guard, but I think Kenneth Faried was the better choice. (Team Grade: Don’t Get It)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

21. Nolan Smith, PG, Duke
My second WOW of the night. Portland does need a point guard since Andre Miller is in the final year of his deal and could even be traded this offseason. I am just surprised the Blazers passed on a guy like Kenneth Faried who would give them instant energy and rebound off the bench. (Pick Grade: Makes sense)

51. Jon Diebler, SG, Ohio State
This pick somewhat makes sense since Portland could use some depth at two guard with Rudy Fernandez being traded. We know Diebler can shoot the ball, but does he have enough in the other areas of his game to make it in the league? (Pick Grade: Meh)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
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 year 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 LaMarcus 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 a first-round pick.

Andre Miller remained an ironman on the court, although he did miss just his sixth game in his 12-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 postseason for the third straight year, it was also the third consecutive season that they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round. The challenge this offseason is to continue to add to this young and still up-and-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: LaMarcus Aldridge

SF: Gerald Wallace/Nicolas Batum/Luke Babbitt

SG: Wesley Matthews/Brandon Roy/Elliot Williams/Jon Diebler

PG: Raymond Felton/Nolan Smith/Armon Johnson

NBA Free Agents:

^C-Greg Oden (RFA)

PG-Patrick Mills (UFA)

C-Chris Johnson (UFA)

PF-Earl Barron (UFA)

Offseason Transactions:

Blazers acquire PG Raymond Felton in three-team trade for PG Andre Miller and SG Rudy Fernandez

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $66.3 million

NBA Offseason 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 there in age and is 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 upgrade behind Miller. Patrick Mills is a free agent, leaving Armon Johnson as the only backup point. 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 and Camby, and young talent like Batum or Fernandez that could be packaged with draft picks to pry Paul 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 10 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.

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