Coming off a 2012-13 season of small victories (ROY Damian Lillard) and mediocre results (finishing 11th in the West), the Portland Trail Blazers made a number of offseason moves to try to boost team production enough to get out of the mediocre mire and back into the playoffs.
The Blazers hope four offseason transactions can make a difference off the bench and provide a solid defensive backbone the team was missing last year.
Robin Lopez: Acquired from New Orleans in the offseason, the Trail Blazers are hoping Lopez will fill the long-absent role of difference making center for the team. Lopez might be the guy for the job, but it’s no sure thing.
The Blazers need to shore up their defense, rated 21st in the league last year. Lopez may be the key to that. In New Orleans, he was able to solidly defend the pick and roll as well as provide some stopping power in the middle.
Don’t expect Lopez to add too much on the offensive side, though. His most productive scoring year was 2012, when he averaged 11.4 pts. per game in his first real starting role. The fact that 2012 was the first time he played in 82 games and averaged over 20 minutes per game means he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to show that he can be a day-to-day center. The Blazers are hoping he can continue the solid production he showed last year in New Orleans and build on his game with more minutes on the floor.
Thomas Robinson: Robinson is an undeveloped talent that the Blazers are hoping will blossom into a reliable backup power forward this year. He turned a lot of heads in early fall practices, but he failed to show much progress in limited time during the preseason. The exception to that came in the last preseason game against Sacramento, where Robinson was able to dump in 14 points filling in for an injured LaMarcus Aldridge, including this highlight dunk: http://www.slamonline.com/online/media/slam-tv/2013/10/thomas-robinson-crushes-big-putback-dunk-vs-kings-video/
To be fair, Robinson hasn’t had a great chance to develop in one place yet. After being drafted 5th overall by Sacramento in 2011 he was traded to Houston halfway through the season, where he had limited success off the bench, averaging thirteen minutes per game and 4.5 points.
Despite not having a great start to his career, there is a lot of potential to Robinson. He is big and athletic and he can rebound. Offensively, he’s still looking for an identity. He doesn’t have a reliable scoring move and looks inconsistent overall in the paint. If he can develop his flashes of offensive poise into a consistent game, he could add a lot to the Blazer bench.
Mo Williams: With Williams, the Blazers signed some stability. He’s 30 years old, he’s played around the league (this will be his fifth team) and he is a competent offensive player. He can pass, he’s got a reliable jump shot and he can hit a three when he needs to.
He looks like the surest thing among the offseason additions. As a veteran player he’ll be able to provide some guidance to a young Blazers roster, and he could be especially helpful in the development of Damian Lillard’s game. The Blazers signed him to a modest two-year $5.6 million dollar contract, so he’s not a huge liability. Throughout his career he’s shown himself capable of consistently scoring in double digits (he averaged 12.9 PPG with Utah last season) and in limited preseason action he showed that he can come off the bench and ignite the Blazers offense by driving, shooting and passing.
Dorell Wright: By signing free agent Dorell Wright, the Blazers added some more experience to the bench, but they also added one of the league’s more prolific three-point marksmen. Wright led the league in three point attempts and makes in the 2010-2011 season, and he’s no stranger to the All-Star weekend three point contest.
He’s struggled in the offseason with a recurring dislocated middle finger that he’s been working to tape properly and shoot with. A finger injury can be a big deal for a shooter, but Wright says he’s found the right finger tape configuration and is working to adjust his shot to compensate.
As a probable back up for Nicolas Batum at small forward, Wright represents a tantalizing three-point threat coming off the bench to spark the Blazers offense when needed.