Hello, friend. Here- take this blanket. You seem disoriented. Have you been wandering about in the cold night questioning the purpose and truth of all things which once were? I thought you might have been. There’s no need to be afraid anymore; there are others like you here.
You must have heard that the beloved Trail Blazers of yesteryear no longer exist. Yes, friend, by now you know that Nicolas Batum was traded to the Hornets. LaMarcus Aldridge, franchise cornerstone and person who ostensibly wanted to continue to play for the Blazers, is now a Spur. Wesley Matthews apparently wilted under the pressure of Chandler Parsons’ personality and signed with the Mavericks. Robin Lopez signed with the Knicks. Arron Afflalo also signed with the Knicks, but you didn’t really care. Will Barton is gone. Thomas Robinson is gone. Victor Claver is gone. Steve Blake is gone, again. Joel Freeland is gone. Dorell Wright is gone. Basically everybody is gone.
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Meyers Leonard, Tim Frazier, Allen Crabbe, and Chris Kaman are the only players who return from last year’s team, and Lillard is the only remaining player who was a part of the rotation in the playoff triumph over Houston just over a year ago. Despite this, the current situation isn’t terrible, and could be far worse.
First off, we’re still alive. A massive earthquake hasn’t killed us, destroyed our homes, and altered the geographic makeup of our entire region yet. In addition to this, Damian Lillard signed a max contract and will remain a Blazer through the 2020/2021 season, and extensions for Leonard and McCollum are almost certainly on the horizon. The Blazers have also been prescient in regards to trading away a relatively low amount of future draft picks (The ones which they did trade were predominantly 2nd rounders), so in addition to potentially being able to sign free agents using their substantial cap space going forward, they’ll be able to annually add more young talent. Furthermore, despite the exodus of 80% of the starting lineup and several key role players for which the Blazers received very little compensation, Olshey has been remarkably effective in acquiring promising, young, athletic players to fill the void without giving up many assets.
That being said, there’s a distinct possibility that the Blazers will be the worst team in the Western Conference next year, and honestly, this is probably something that you should be actively rooting for at this point. Teams in the West which were pond scum last season- Minnesota, LA, Denver, Sacramento- all made moves to significantly improve their rosters, and all of the playoff teams with the exception of Dallas got even better. Frankly, the Blazers are incentivized to lose as many games as possible this year in order to have the best possible chance at obtaining a high lottery pick to add to their core, and with the West looking potentially stronger than it did last year when it was historically strong, all signs point to them being very, very bad.
Personally, I’m kind of excited. The franchise already has a borderline superstar in Lillard, and a down-year will finally allow McCollum, Leonard, and Crabbe (COOL BREEZE HYPE TRAIN 4EVER) a chance to see extended minutes and to play through their mistakes in a way that wasn’t possible when the team was a borderline contender. Almost all of the Blazers’ offseason acquisitions will similarly be allowed to play major minutes in an attempt to accelerate their development, and the extent of this development will be one of the most interesting things to watch for during the season.
In all, the Blazers have signed, drafted, or traded for 9 players who will likely be with the team for the upcoming season and replace the players who everybody loved and thought were awesome. Some are even good at basketball! Let’s have a look at them.
Height / Wingspan: 6’8 / 7’0
Nickname: HOW COULD YOU BE MOE HARKLESS
Moe Harkless grew up in Queens, played a year at St. John’s, and probably wanted to get drafted by the Knicks. Instead, he went 15th overall to the Magic, started 100 games over the course of his first two seasons, and then saw virtually no playing time in his third because of a logjam at small forward / the Magic being the Magic. Projects as a solid 3 and D guy, and will probably see significant minutes backing up Al-Farouq Aminu.
Ceiling: Trevor Ariza with a splash of Austin Daye
Floor: Austin Daye
Height / Wingspan: 6’5 / 6’10
Nickname: Gerald Henderson
Henderson was acquired in the Batum trade and is very average at most things. He holds the distinction of being the best player on the worst NBA team of all time, as he averaged a team-high 15.1 ppg for the 7-59 2011/2012 Bobcats, in addition to probably losing hundreds of games of 1-on-1 to Michael Jordan. A very likely candidate to be traded at some point during the course of the season.
Ceiling: Gerald Henderson
Floor: Gerald Henderson
Height / Wingspan: 6’5 / 6’9
Nickname: Planet Pat
Connaughton is a second round pick out of Notre Dame who can throw a baseball like 96 miles per hour, which isn’t a necessary skill for a basketball player to have but is pretty cool. He can definitely shoot, and his defense will probably be better than people expect due to his length and athleticism. His hair is terrible.
Ceiling: JJ Redick with Will Barton’s athleticism meets Fred Hoiberg meets Rex Chapman
Floor: Travis Diener
Height / Wingspan: 6’10 / 7’0
Ed Davis has been hyped as a prospect since about 2008, but this last season that he spent with the Lakers was the first that he’s had where he was consistently productive over the course of an entire year. He’s not great in any one area, but he’s very efficient and still has room to improve. Overall a nice value signing.
Ceiling: Poor Man’s Jermaine O’Neal meets Brandan Wright
Floor: JJ Hickson
Height / Wingspan: 6’8 / 6’5
Nickname: That guy with the T Rex arms
Diez is a late second round pick who hails from Spain, and no that wasn’t a typo on his wingspan. Dude literally has negative length. He makes Kelly Olynyk look like a pterodactyl. Unless he’s knocking down 3s at an extremely high clip it’s going to be hard to justify leaving him on the floor due to the likelihood of him being a defensive liability.
Ceiling: Bojan Bogdanovic
Floor: Travis Diener. Travis Diener is the floor for every shooter.
Height / Wingspan: 6’9 / 7’3
Nickname: King Farouq
Neil Olshey drafted Aminu eighth overall in 2010 when he was GM of the Clippers, and then subsequently traded him to the then-Hornets in the Chris Paul deal. Aminu never quite blossomed in New Orleans, and signed for basically nothing with Dallas after his rookie deal expired. In the playoffs last year against Houston, he finally put it all together and at times appeared to be the Mavericks’ best player. He can legitimately guard 1-4, and he has the potential to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. If he could ever figure out a way to shoot even like 35% from three over the course of a season he’d probably be worth twice his contract.
Ceiling: Shawn Marion meets Draymond Green meets Really Big Andre Iguodala
Floor: Al-Farouq Aminu 2010-2014
Height / Wingspan: 7’0 / 6’11
Nickname: Plums, Plumdog Millionaire
I really liked Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, so I was initially upset when he was traded to Brooklyn for Plumlee. I am still very upset. Putting my personal feelings aside, Mason Plumlee is okay. He’s not amazing or anything, but he can jump to places that other people can’t to finish alley-oops. He’s questionable as a rim protector, and that’s probably a nice way of putting it. Overall a pretty solid player though, and his ability to catch lobs will probably increase Lillard’s assist average by at least one.
Ceiling: Tyson Chandler with slightly less rim protection meets Nick Collison
Floor: Miles Plumlee
Position: SG / SF
Height / Wingspan: 6’7 / 7’1
Nickname: The Ghost
Luis Montero has a dope self-proclaimed nickname and is from the Dominican Republic. He moved to America when he was 19 and had a very successful first season of JUCO ball, only to have his school’s program shut down over forged transcripts. Instead of going to another junior college, he decided to enter his name in the draft. After going undrafted, the Blazers signed him to a partially guaranteed deal, presumably because of his physical tools. He’ll probably spend a lot of time in the D-League.
Ceiling: Thabo Sefolosha
Floor: Josh Huestis
Height / Wingspan: 6’10 / 7’4
Nickname: Nobody on the Internet has ever given Noah Vonleh a nickname
Vonleh was the ninth pick in a strong draft class, but had an injury-plagued rookie year in Charlotte. Regardless, he’s still very young and has prototypical length for a power forward to go along with underrated athleticism and range out to the three point line. He was the piece that enticed Olshey enough to trade away Batum, so he’s clearly a big part of the organization’s plans for the future. If he develops properly he could be a very special player.
Ceiling: Pau Gasol meets Cliff Robinson
Floor: Perry Jones III
– Keith Bogans is 35 years old and on the Blazers’ summer league team. I think that this is amazing and therefore am now investing a large amount of emotional energy into Keith Bogans not getting cut. I will be disappointed.
– Team Ceiling / Floor:
Ceiling: Win 40+ games playing pace-and-space with a dynamic young backcourt and narrowly miss the playoffs (think Phoenix two seasons ago).
Floor: 0-82. The worst basketball team ever. Damian Lillard demands a trade to Milwaukee.
What will probably actually happen: 25-57, high lottery pick, Lamarcus maybe gets booed.
– Enes Kanter isn’t going to be a Blazer, probably ever. This is very, very good news.
– There’s a solid chance that when the season ends Damian’s ppg will be higher than the Blazers’ total number of wins. This is probably an ideal outcome.
– Noah Vonleh is the first Blazer who’s ever been younger than me. Dreams are hollow, youth dies, nothing is forever.