I love the Hibbert offer. Not necessarily because I’m enamored with him as a player–though I could be–or the contract, but because of everything else it says about the direction Neil Olshey wants to take this team.
Not minutes after free agency had begun did Portland put in an aggressive offer on one of the league’s top young talents. This news itself is hopeful. The Blazers aren’t looking to get a deal on a serviceable frontcourt mate for LaMarcus Aldridge, they are going on all-in on an All-Star center. This move, paired with Olshey’s draft night debut have helped to answer some of the questions about the direction the team is headed.
With the GM position a veritable revolving door over the past few seasons it has been refreshing to watch Olshey work. Without even examining the picks, Thursday’s draft made one thing clear: there’s a plan.
Sure, Lillard by all accounts impressed the Blazers during his workout, but with Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond on the board for the sixth pick things could have gone very differently for Portland. Portland stuck to their guns in the midst of what was turning into a wonky draft and executed the plan they walked into the war room with. Drafting Lillard set the stage for the Hibbert offer, which also makes clear where the Blazers see Meyers Leonard fitting in the frontcourt rotation—not near the top. As Danny pointed out last week, Drummond with the sixth pick could have helped fill the hole at center, but Portland’s eye has been on a long-term solution at point guard for the past couple of seasons and draft nights. It looks like they finally picked one up they are excited about.
While Drummond might turn into one of the league’s premier big men, Portland isn’t looking for a project in the middle to pair with 27-year old (in a few weeks) Aldridge. Hibbert is a proven player who has improved each of his four years in the league, demonstrated by his All-Star nod this past season. The offer indicates that the Blazers are looking to win now around Aldridge entering his prime.
Going into the off-season the questions we knew needed to be answered were regarding the point guard and center positions for the team. The one we hoped would be answered quickly was Nic Batum’s status with the Blazers. The Timberwolves (Khaaaaan!) have made a reported offer of four years and $50 million to Portland’s restricted free agent. A hefty contract to be sure, but a young scorer and strong defensive presence could be worth $12.5 million to Portland. A core of Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, and Hibbert could be potent both offensively and on defense for years to come.
Indiana could of course match the Hibbert offer, but Olshey’s move is solid nonetheless. Aggressively pursuing young, but proven, talent is exactly the direction the Blazers should be headed with their All-Star entering his prime. Portland has no control over what Indiana chooses to do regarding Hibbert’s offer.
One question that does need to be answered, and where the Blazers do have control, is who will coach the new direction Blazers? Danny has his eye on Stan Van Gundy. Others have dreamed of Jerry Sloan coaching Lillard and Aldridge in the pick and roll. It’s early, but I like Brian Shaw coming in to help the young point guard get comfortable in the league and helping get the ball moving.
For now, the focus is on getting the right players around Aldridge. It’s a plan worth sticking to.