It is bizarre to me that the year 2016 has come and gone. So much has happened in this past year and it is exciting to think about what the future may hold.
This is a time of year for reflection on the past and setting goals for the future. Everyone around us has a dream in mind for the year to come, some of those people will work towards that dream, some will not. But the majority of them will form some kind of a New Year’s Resolution.
About half of Americans make some sort of New Year’s Resolution and most of those fall into three distinct categories.
3. New Relationship
Whether you personally set a goal or resolution for the new year is entirely on you, but let me anzalyze some New Year’s Resolutions that could sure benefit the Portland Trail Blazers.
1. Health – For the Blazers to be successful in the second half of the season and into the Playoffs, they are going to have to get and stay healthy. Last season the team stayed incredibly healthy, this year has been a little bit different.
Al-Farouq Aminu played and started in all 82 games last season. Riddled with injuries early in this season, Aminu has missed 18 games already, more than half of the games the team has played.
The even more crucial injury is that to Damian Lillard’s ankle. This team will only go as far as Damian Lillard can take them. Lillard hurt his ankle on December 23rd against the Spurs and no timetable has been set for his return. It seems like it won’t be a long absence for Lillard but he has also described it as the worst ankle sprain of his basketball career. This is something to key an eye on even when he returns to the court.
If the Blazers want to make about run in the Western Conference, they need to find a way to get, and stay healthy in the second half of the season.
2. Wealth – The Blazers’ payroll is the second highest in the NBA. The reason that is important is the fact that with this payroll comes expectations.
Owner Paul Allen sits courtside and thinks about the $120,139,444 owed to his team this season and sees them with a 14-20 record through 34 games. That has to be a tough pill to swallow for one of the most involved owners in the NBA. The only team in the NBA that has paid more per-win this season is the Dallas Mavericks.
Now, I realize there is nothing that can lower the payroll aside from a major trade (we’ll get into that), but I believe this team will live up to its expectations more so as the season progresses.
Evan Turner has been the one that has taken the brunt of the criticism this season for being overpaid and underperforming, but he seems to be fitting into Coach Stotts’ offense more and more as the games go by. Another thing is that Turner has been healthy and played in 31 of the 34 games. His PER (player efficiency rating) is also up to 12.4, which is a large improvement from the beginning of the season.
Still, the expectations surrounding this team are sky high. This team is expected to make the Playoffs. This team is expected to excel in the Western Conference. This team is expected to compete. There is certainly some work to do in the New Year.
3. New Relationships – February 23rd, 2017 marks the NBA Trade Deadline, a date that all Blazer fans are and should be keeping an eye on.
I will be the first to stick up for the Blazers and the way that they are currently constructed. This is the 3rd youngest team in the league and has all of the talent and athleticism to become something very special.
Unfortunately, the way that the early part of the season has gone, there are bound to be some changes made before the trade deadline.
A lot of names have been floating around as targets for the Blazers, mostly surrounding big men like DeMarcus Cousins, Nerlens Noel, and Hassan Whiteside. While those are the more intriguing names to think about from a potential standpoint, I don’t think it is very plausible. A trade for any of those three would almost certainly be centered around C.J. McCollum. I have a hard time seeing the Blazers moving on from the NBA’s Most Improved Player from last season.
Remember summer 2013 when the Blazers traded for Robin Lopez? It wasn’t a trade that caused parades in the streets, but it was a trade that would change the franchise.
Neil Olshey helped facilitate a 3-team trade between the Kings and Pelicans. The Blazers sent the draft rights of Jeff Withey, cash, and a future 2nd round pick for Lopez. Lopez was a great fit for the Blazers and gave them career years. In his two seasons in Portland he averaged 10.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.
Now I don’t bring up Lopez to say that I think he is a better player than Mason Plumlee, just to remind you to keep an open mind when it comes to trades and roster moves. A lot of the time it is more about what they bring to your roster than it is their individual talent or ability. Lopez just happened to be a great fit next to LaMarcus Aldridge.
As the calendar turns from 2016 to 2017 there is a reason for hope in so many different aspects of life. The Blazers are a young, talented bunch that is looking to avenge the last part of their 2016. This is a playoff team. This is a team that will compete down the stretch. There are just some things that need to happen first. Look for the Blazers to make, and hopefully keep, the above resolutions.