The Portland Trail Blazers have some nice pieces, but not enough able bodies to be a short-term contender.

To an extent, The Portland Trail Blazers are stuck in the mud. They have two stars in their backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and some solid complementary pieces. Last offseason they focused on re-signing those role players, and now it’s going to be up to the President of Basketball Operations, Neil Olshey, to look to add young and cheap.

The Blazers have some retooling to do with their cap situation, given they have $133 million on the books for next season. As Mike Richman of noted, they’re going to have to figure out some restructuring with a salary cap max of just $101 million. There’s going to be a hefty luxury tax, one would think. Taking that into account, it’s going to be tough to make significant moves via free agency. The bright side of this?

More Blazers: How Jusuf Nurkic Revamped Portland’s Offense

Portland has three first-round selections, and that does give them some versatility. Richman reported that the Blazers are very interested in trading some of their picks. Before addressing that, I believe they should not pick up the options on Tim Quarterman and Pat Connaughton. That opens up three roster spots, again per Richman.

They have one of two options to be in a better spot with Lillard and McCollum ascending, in my opinion. One of those is to use their picks and a current player to get a higher first selection in the lottery. That doesn’t seem like the smarter idea to me, though. The Blazers are not one or two players away, and they’re still young. That said, they are progressing in the right direction under a capable head coach in Terry Stotts.

For next season, and with their cap situation limiting them for a bit in the short-term, I think they have to prioritize those picks. Unless they are blown away with an amazing offer from someone like the New York Knicks, I would focus on the future. It’s not like Lillard and McCollum are nearing retirement. Plus, this is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, and the Blazers have plenty of room for improvement.

If I’m Olshey, I’m considering adding three rooks that are going to not do much to the cap. You’re not going to wake up and be one of the top tier teams in the league, so why not build your depth? There will be talented players at each one of those first-round selections; go get a few glue guys.

Mixed Options At 15


Apr 3, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Nate Britt (0) is defended by Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Zach Collins (32) in the championship game of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


A player like Zach Collins, who can play both the four and five, could be a target if they stand pat. I’m not sure he’ll be there at 15, but mock drafts change every day. He has the potential to be a steal stretch-four at this pick, and I like the possibility of him playing next to Jusuf Nurkic for years to come.

Another option here for a stretch-four many people believe is TJ Leaf. That’s probably more realistic at this spot, but I don’t see Leaf contributing the way Collins could early on. Collins is not overly athletic, but he could be a nice defensive anchor since he led the West Coast Conference in blocks.

Leaf will likely be a defensive liability for a few years given his lack of athleticism and ability to guard in switchouts. You already have enough defensive liabilities, Portland. Stay away from that one.

Many believe Portland could go with two-way youngster John Collins here as well. He doesn’t have the three yet, but his arrow is pointing way up. He led the NCAA in player efficiency rating (35.9) in a banner sophomore campaign for Wake Forest.

Rim Protection At 20


Jan 21, 2017; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Edrice Bam Adebayo (3) dunks the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks guard Rakym Felder (4) and forward Chris Silva (30) in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 85-69. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports


The Blazers biggest need in this draft is improving their interior defense. They were 25th in the league in opponent paint points per game. The first guy that comes to mind in fixing that problem here is Bam Adebayo.

He is so tough around the rim, and the Blazers need more athletes up front to catch lobs from Lillard and point forward Evan Turner. Despite not displaying a viable J in one season at Kentucky, Adebayo did have the best offensive rating in the SEC at 123.6 points per 100 possessions.

He’s barely scratched the surface and would be of substantial value here for a team that needs more toughness. A similar athlete here could be ex-UCLA Bruin Ike Anigbogu, who could develop into a force on both ends over the next few years. He’s still just 18-yearsold, though.

Backup Guards At 26

Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard Donovan Mitchell (45) is defended by Michigan Wolverines guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Blazers have one of the best point guards in the Association. Lillard’s an elite scorer, but they need better options at backup point guard. Frank Jackson might be an option for the future here, and he can also shoot it well. Chris Roling of Bleacher Report thinks Donovan Mitchell might be on the board here, too.


The ex-Louisville Cardinal is more of a combo guard, but his potential as a pure shooter and lockdown defender would be too much to pass up here. He has a 6-10 wingspan, which projects well in defending on the perimeter and in pick-and-roll. Another player who could be an excellent bench contributor early on is Jordan Bell of Oregon, who played huge in the NCAA Tournament.

He’s an incredible rebounder for his height and also led the Pac-12 in blocks (87) and defensive rating (89.0 points allowed per 100). He could be a defensive sparkplug for Stotts in the rotation, and if his shot improves, he’d be a fan favorite with his hustle. He’s a natural leader, too, which is something you can never have enough of with a young roster.

In what is a crucial offseason for Portland, these are some possibilities that could keep their arrow pointing up for the near future. Don’t get caught up in a quick fix if you’re the Blazers — the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs aren’t getting dethroned for a while.

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