Water will find its level, and the NBA’s level is basically flooding the West Coast at the moment.
Golden State losing two stars to serious injuries. Lakers finally getting Anthony Davis. And let’s not forget James Harden literally bleeding from his eyes. If that isn’t a sign from above, I don’t know what is.
But it’s not all hellfire and brimstone.
The last 5 seasons have been dominated by Golden State, but now that Klay and KD are both out with injuries (torn ACL and achilles, respectively) for the majority if not all of next season, that leaves the now power hungry Lakers to storm the gates.
But who is going to be their competition in the West? Who will carve the way for a new showdown? Who will BLAZE the TRAIL of 2019-2020?… Do you see where I’m getting at here?
See, Portland had a rollercoaster of a season, both physically and emotionally. From the loss of long-time team owner Paul Allen, to seeing their big Bosnian Jusuf Nurkic, go down with a devastating leg injury during some of the best damn basketball of his life, a lesser squad could have seen the hardship Portland faced and thrown in the towel. Not the Blazers.
The Blazers were still able to win 53 regular-season games and make it as far as the Western Conference Finals – something they hadn’t accomplished in 19 years – before ultimately falling to the Golden State Warriors in a sweep to end their year.
Regardless of how it ended, Portland had quite the memorable run in the 2018-19 season and playoffs, including Lillard’s game-winner over Paul George and the OKC Thunder in the opening round, the quadruple-overtime thriller over the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the second round and the Game 7 victory on the road versus that same up-and-coming Nuggets team.
Unfortunately, Portland have found themselves in a bit of a pickle in the off-season. It’s projected they’ve blown the salary cap, not by a huge margin, but enough that they won’t have the flexibility to use what should be a pretty active free-agent market to their advantage. That means they’re going to have to A) stretch a dollar pretty far with some affordable and skilled players, B) set up a nice trade option with some outlying players (I’m looking at you Meyers Leonard), or C) a bit of both.
So let’s assess some sensible, realistic options which Rip City could reach out to this free agency:
Otto Porter Jr
Having already seen interest from Portland at the trade deadline, the Blazers should pick up the slack on Otto Porter Jr’s lead before he runs off for good.
Porter brings exactly what the Blazers were lacking in their series against the Warriors. He’s a reliable shooter with range, can draw out the defense, and can also push a very solid guard against the opponent’s best wing.
Despite the Bulls recently acquiring him, the Bulls shouldn’t really feel too committed to Porter Jr., considering they got him for scraps at the trade deadline.
Porter would be a much needed addition to the team, and combined with trading out Meyers Leonard, this would give Zach Collins the ability to pop into the starting line-up to create what I think is a much more rounded starting 5 than the hot-and-fast team that went on to the Western Conference Finals.
He’s tall, he’s one of the league’s best 3-point shooters, and have you seen his beard? Glorious. Simply, glorious.
With Seth Curry ready to go, the Blazers are going to need a dedicated coin collector, someone who can bring in some buckets. That’s where Harris thrives. He is deadly accurate, versatile, and most importantly, consistent, three things which the Blazers could really benefit from.
Currently playing for the Sichuan Blue Whales in China, Jamaal ‘The Grindson’ Franklin is posting impressive numbers that could comfortably reflect his play style if brought over to the US, particularly the Blazers.
The Blazers are hosting a free agent mini camp which Franklin is included in and I suspect his size and raw athleticism will be something that really tickles the Blazers’ fancy. Standing at 6 ‘5 and an aggressive player down the lane, Portland could make a good tactical, and (arguably more important) a financial decision with him.
This summer’s free agents are some of the best selects we’ve seen in the last 5 seasons, and while most teams will be keen to splash some cash on them, Portland needs to be cognisant of the fact that any long-term contract they sign this year will bite into the budget from next year as well.
We can already see Portland’s Western Conference team, that’s no secret, what Portland needs is to dig through the tumbleweeds, to find the nuggets of free agent gold that will set themse up with a clean foundation that will help them get through through the wild wild west.