Last summer was one of the most crucial in franchise history. Drafting Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard and Will Barton was just a piece of the puzzle. It really started when Neil Olshey was hired.
The former Clippers' General Manager was heavily recruited by Blazer brass and finally hired after a lengthy interview process with owner Paul Allen. Olshey is an incredibly polished individual. He came up through the coaching ranks and worked his way into the front office. Having a background in entertainment, Olshey really know how to talk and can charm any audience.
Personally, I've been a big fan of Olshey since his introductory press conference. His knowledge of the game, his energy and his vision for the future all come together to make a very impressive General Manager in this league. Portland has been needing a solid leader from the front office. The front office turnover has been widely publicized and criticized in the media. Portland is extremely hopeful that Olshey can be a long-term fixture for this franchise.
Going into the most important draft in franchise history, a GM could definitely come in under a ton of pressure and make some kind of mistake. Olshey seemed to be really calm, cool, collected and went ahead to draft a franchise point guard who many think will be rookie of the year, a solid 7-footer that will be built around and a hustle, gritty swingman at a value pick in the second round.
Along with a successful draft, Olshey showed major restraint in not making any moves that would handcuff the team for the future. Moving into the trade deadline, a lot of eyes were on Olshey and what he could do to improve this franchise. Being bake to trade a Greek, Euro-stash player for a very serviceable backup point guard, in Eric Maynor, was a huge victory for Olshey and this franchise.
Even though we have seen Olshey do some work this past season I would suggest that the Olshey era really begins this offseason. There are a few pieces on this roster that this new regime has no connection to; they didn't draft or acquire them in any way. Elliot Williams, Luke Babbitt and Nolan Smith are all guys who have no contract with this team going forward. It has been fairly easy to see that these guys have all been, in one way or another, replaced by younger guys that this new front office and coaching staff. Williams has had major injury issues and has in essence been replaced by rookie Barton. Babbitt has fairly inconsistent and has been replaced by Victor Claver. Nolan Smith just hasn't been able to find his groove as a point guard in this league and has struggled to find the floor since the team traded for Maynor.
Clearing these three roster spots and contracts will help this team moving on into the future and forming the team that Olshey has envisioned. Front office members have a much easier time admitting to other people's mistakes rather than their own. Olshey cutting loose a few of those players won't make him look bad and he can spin it that he is clearing those roster spots for players that will contribute to this team moving forward.
Jason Quick had an amazing article in the Oregonian about Olshey's vision and plan for this team. He has a tiered plan on how to help this team. Scouts for this team are out and active right now trying to see all of their targeted players at least three times. If you have a few minutes, look up Quick's article. Gold.
I look forward to the Olshey era. He seems like a franchise changer. I don't mean to exaggerate or over emphasize something but he seems to have the autonomy with ownership, trust from the coaching staff and faith of the fans.
Garrett Thornton is on Twitter. Follow him at @PortlandGarrett