The Portland Trail Blazers did good, very good. Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge might be unhappy, but Damian Lillard now has quite an impressive backcourt partnership program going, as C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe join him through the draft, adding a lot of offensive firepower to a team desperately needing more scorers and general depth.
The Blazers are still far from perfect, but the additions of Crabbe, one of the best shooters in the draft (18.4 points per game last season from California and possibly the steal of this draft) and McCollum, the first ever Lehigh player to become an NBA player, should make the Blazers even more fun to watch than last season, and give them a lot more option to run on the floor, not to mention find themselves back in the postseason.
They’re still missing a center, especially one with a defensive presence, but they are considering making bids for Tiago Splitter and Nikola Pekovic, and Elton Brand might not be such a bad choice as well. Aldridge, according to reports, is tired of living in Portland, and the Blazers would like Noah to come if they’re forced to give up their best player from the last few years (since Roy started breaking down at least).
But maybe the promising draft and the moves they might make in free agency can convince him to stop sulking and make the most of the situation he’s in. Lillard looks like he’s going to be one of the best point guards in the NBA very soon, while Nicolas Batum is a special player (still developing) to play next to. The arrival of McCollum gives the Blazers a lot of flexibility when it comes to their ball-handling, and the arrival of Crabbe opens up options for small lineups with plenty of firepower.
Lillard and McCollum at guards, Batum and Crabbe also on the outside and Aldridge at center. If the Blazers want to run while maintaining a very strong presence along the perimeter, this can be one of the more enjoyable lineups we’ll get to watch next season.
Playoff team? We still need to see how everything meshes: what center the Blazers manage to bring in, and how much can they improve their depth, and how does Wesley Matthews fit in to all of this. Meyers Leonard is somewhat of a promising prospect himself, but it’s still early to make him your starting center, and the Blazers will be a lot about their guards and outside play next season.
The West is always hard to breakthrough in – the Spurs, Thunder, Grizzlies, Clippers, Nuggets, Rockets and Warriors don’t leave a lot of room for outsiders. The Mavericks, the Timberwolves and the Lakers aren’t exactly passing on making the postseason next year. The Blazers will have a talented team, but maybe still a little short around the edges to make it into the top 8, but it’s quite likely they’ll be better than they were last season, and a much more serious threat to that final postseason spot.