A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

NBA Franchise Power Rankings: #23 – Portland Trailblazers

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LaMarcus Aldridge playing with the Portland Tr...

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Previous rankings:

#30 - Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction)
#29 - Phoenix Suns
#28 - Denver Nuggets
#27 - Detroit Pistons
#26 - Milwaukee Bucks
#25 - Philadelphia 76ers
#24 - Houston Rockets

#23 – Portland Trailblazers

Total Trade Value Ranking: #23 (Feb. 2011 ranking: #18)

Managerial Grade: C

Financial Grade: C

Best assets: PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge (legitimate all-star), SG Wesley Matthews (legitimate starter), SF Gerald Wallace (older legitimate starter), SF Nic Batum (borderline starter), , 2012 1st, PG Raymond Felton (expiring legitimate starter), RFA C Greg Oden (Mr. Glass), SF Luke Babbit (young, looked like a bust last year), C Marcus Camby (expiring legitimate starter), SG Elliot Williams (young, borderline NBAer), PG Patrick Mills (young, borderline NBAer), PG Armon Johnson (young, borderline NBAer)

Bad contracts: SG Brandon Roy (4 years, 61.7 mil guaranteed)

Draft picks indebted: 2013 1st to Charlotte (top 12 protected through 2015, unprotected in 2016)

Overall synopsis: If this list was done just in mid 2009, after Greg Oden’s rookie season where the team had a marvellous 54 W campaign and Brandon Roy‘s best, borderline MVP candidate season – the Blazers would’ve legitimately been ranked in the top 3 or 5 on the ladder. Perhaps even #1. It takes some seriously spooky forces to drop a team this heavily down from that point. Greg Oden and Brandon Roy’s careers all but being ended by injury, the latter just after a maximum contract had been given out, is that spooky force. What’s left is LaMarcus Aldridge realizing the star potential as a post player he may have always had – But not a ton else. Matthews was a rare positive value free agent pickup as a SG who can defend and shoot, Batum likewise has potential to do that at SF, SF/PF Gerald Wallace is a good defensive player who’s nonetheless old and expensive. Raymond Felton and Marcus Camby will soon be free agents and Oden is right now. But the Blazers lack any other *great* pieces other than Aldridge, which is entirely their fault despite the Roy and Oden bad luck, for the reasons I’ll list in the next section:

Management/Finances: There was a time when the Trailblazers were captained by a GM a list using total trade value as its biggest measure liked very much: Kevin Pritchard. Pritchard, like Sam Presti, specialized in hording assets and draft picks, saving capspace to buy assets from other teams with, and most importantly, was a GM who always built towards a future championship goal. Then the Pritchard era burst into flames by getting on Paul Allen’s bad side and Rich Cho, perhaps a puppet for ownership’s wishes in his 1 year there before leaving to Charlotte, proceeded to spend and not save assets. The Blazers first traded a 2011 and 2013 1st for Gerald Wallace – a move that makes little sense to me considering Wallace only helps you for 3 years, now 2, until he becomes a free agent and a player you don’t want in your 30s anyways. Wallace does nothing but make you a more competitive 1st round knockout for a few years, before losing all his value. When teams start spending assets just to lose in the 1st round, that’s when trouble and stagnation starts. They then used another 2011 1st to trade Andre Miller for Raymond Felton, who will be an unrestricted free agent in a year. Furthermore, Marcus Camby could’ve been traded for value at the trade deadline, now he is yet one year older at 37 and an expiring contract, making it unlikely he will get value. If Kevin Pritchard was running the Blazers, you likely would’ve seen the 3 1sts kept and on top of that, Camby traded to give the team a 4th – the Blazers would’ve accepted their fate as a 1st round knockout and built towards a future goal. Then the team could’ve packaged picks to try and get a guard like Kemba Walker or Jimmer Fredette to play with LaMarcus Aldridge long term. Now they might not have a chance to get another standout young player beside Aldridge as they will have only have weak draft picks the next few years to add young players with. Coaching is strong in Portland, Nate McMillan has a simple but effective system everyone listens to which gets strong results more often than not.

Financially, the team has money to burn thanks to Paul Allen if he wants to, but the days of the Blazers having capspace to trade for prospects are long gone, now they will look to spend it in less efficient ways like MLE signings. The Roy contract is the worst in the league and Aldridge, Wallace and Matthews are all well paid.

Next season: The Blazers should be extremely solid next season if Aldridge keeps up his all-star play. They should have an excellent defense spearheaded by great athleticism and rotation speed overall – and very good rebounding. Offensively they have a top scorer, a solid PG (albeit I don’t like Felton as much in a slow system as much as a fast one like New York or Denver’s), and some shooters. Projected DRTG: 7th, projected ORTG: 11th, projected record: 51-31.

Projection: Strongly downwards. Wallace’s value will only go down, Felton and Camby will hit free agency and lose all value, and the Blazers have little young players to raise in value. The other teams around them should also be going up. If Aldridge reverts back to his pre 2010-2011 form, the Blazers will be looking at a bottom 5 ranking on this list.

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