With the dreadful 2011-12 NBA season officially over for the Portland Trail Blazers, it’s time to focus on rebuilding the roster in what should be one of the busiest offseasons in franchise history.
The Blazers are no strangers to rebuilding. Just six years ago the team began a new era by drafting Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, selecting Greg Oden No. 1 overall and shipping out the team’s only go-to scorer in Zach Randolph.
The team experienced a number of significant changes during the mid-2000’s, and the future looked bright for a team that was ready to grow together and contend out West for years to come.
It’s safe to say, though, that things haven’t exactly gone as planned in Rip City.
The Blazers now find themselves with only one of their Big Three still standing and still have yet to see the second round of the playoffs in more than a decade.
With just a 28-38 record this season, the team is ready to embrace another big shift in the franchise.
This time, though, the turnaround should happen more quickly, as the current rebuilding project has a whole different feel than the one that took place just a few seasons back.
The Trail Blazers have been highly criticized for their inability to hire a general manager this season, and while the team is going to need one to make the big-time decisions this summer, they pulled off a trade-deadline shocker that brought the team a potential lottery pick for the massive contract of Gerald Wallace.
With the New Jersey Nets’ pick possibly coming Portland’s way, the Blazers are primed for a whole Rip City remodel with two potential lottery picks under their belt heading into the draft.
The big difference between the two picks they have now and the two picks they had back in 2006?
When the Blazers drafted Aldridge and Roy in 2006, there was practically no veteran leadership to be found anywhere on the roster.
This time around, when the Blazers bring in one or one two highly touted prospects, the rookies are going to have an All-Star to play alongside as they grow and develop their own games.
Aldridge may not be the only player who they can learn from, though, as the move to shed Wallace’s contract also helped clear enough cap space to make the Blazers a legitimate player in the free-agent game this summer.
Reports that Batum could command more than $10 million this offseason changes the game in Portland, as he has been considered a priority to retain for quite some time now.
Whether the team matches or not, though, they will have options once free agency finally rolls around.
Keeping Batum certainly limits who the team can afford this summer, but even with his deal on the books, the team can surround their existing pieces with a depth that was clearly not there this season.
If Batum accepts a big-time contract and Portland decides to let him walk, the sky is the limit as to who the team could afford this summer.
Max deals, mini-max deals and depth galore could be headed the Blazers’ way net year, as the cap space in Portland could prove to be near the most in the league this summer.
The roster could very well have a whole new look to it next season, but with experience already on board, this team is not starting from scratch with unproven assets.
In fact, the only thing that actually is starting from scratch is the head coaching spot.
Nate McMillan was sent away at the deadline, and while he was a good enough coach to help mature the young players out of the bottom of the league, his slow-down style and isolation basketball was never enough to get the team into a postseason second-round matchup.
Finding the right guy this summer who can lead the entire team—youth and experience alike—to better days is a key part of getting back on track.
With the right mix of talent and guidance, those days could be sooner than many people think.
This is going to be a massive rebuild; there’s no denying that.
But if everything actually goes according to plan this time around, the rebuild of 2006 will be a distant memory, and the team will be ready to compete and be back in the playoffs by the end of the 2012-13 NBA season.