The Portland Trail Blazers’ mission for the next few years is to make Damian Lillard stay. After all, the guard has been involved in all sorts of trade rumors after his team’s shortcomings of giving him the right players. The front office embarked on this mission by adding some players and making a coaching change. Let’s walk through these aforementioned tweaks and give the front office an offseason grade.
The front office added Cody Zeller, Tony Snell, and Ben McLemore to the roster. At face value, these names won’t immediately jump out of the page. That’s because they really don’t. As for one, Zeller is the replacement for Enes Kanter. Safe to say that Kanter was able to step up when Jusuf Nurkic (who’s health is still questionable) sat out for half the season. Saying that Zeller can do the same is like pulling out a stubborn tooth. Zeller is good and will give the Trail Blazers a presence in the paint. But he doesn’t offer anything new to the team and to the ultimate mission of making a deep playoff run.
The Snell and McLemore signings are a bit better for the Blazers than the Zeller deal. Snell is a veteran and a reliable 3-and-D guy. There’s a lot of talk about his 56.9 percent clip from deep. Let us not get carried away. Snell attempted just 2.3 3-point shots per game. Give him more attempts and this will likely drop to around sub 40 percent. Where Snell can excel is on the defensive end as Chauncey Billups is reportedly a savant on that end of the floor.
McLemore, for his part, has experienced a lot of ups and downs in his career. Despite this, fans and analysts regard him as a pure shooter. There were even early comparisons to the great Ray Allen. Obviously, McLemore hasn’t lived up to this hype. But looking at his stints with the Houston Rockets and the LA Lakers, putting him with Damian Lillard (who attracts a hoard of defenders) just might work for the Blazers. Portland hopes he remains consistent.
Chauncey Billups will be the man on the sidelines tasked to utilize the Trail Blazers’ players both old and new.
Upon his hiring, Billups was quick to point out the weaknesses of the Blazers on defense. This seems to be his main mantra as head coach. Those who know Billups from his playing days know that he’s a great defender (two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection) and was part of the Detroit Pistons, one of the best defensive teams in the early to mid-2000s. We have to wait and watch the actual games if Billups’ mentality as a player translates into his coaching.
Props should be given to the Blazers front office for trying to solve the team’s weakness.
Given all these moves, we can say that the Blazers could’ve done a whole lot better in the offseason. The team will probably perform well in the regular season as they always do. They will probably end up as the fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference, which is an impressive feat in itself. But come playoff time, it’s difficult to see this team beating powerhouses such as the L.A. Lakers, Phoenix Suns, or even the Dallas Mavericks.
Note that the Golden State Warriors are awaiting the return of Klay Thompson. If the front office doesn’t pull off some major trades in February for the Blazers, we may see Lillard request for a trade.
Blazers Offseason grade: C+