The Portland Trail Blazers, in all honesty, should be ashamed in how their season went. And not just by being swept by the Golden State Warriors but the entire season in general. Last season was a coming out party and this year was supposed to be their breakthrough. However, from the beginning, it all took a turn for the wrong.
To begin, the Blazers shelled out entirely too much cash for Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, and Allen Crabbe. Those three players alone will cost the Blazers $46M per year. That’s a lot of money for reserves. But, the drama didn’t end there. Their big defensive difference maker, Festus Ezeli never suited up for the Blazers which put their defensive scheme on hold. Ed Davis was injured and the Blazers were forced to rely on the offensive firepower of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
While Lillard and McCollum scored at will, the paint was left wide open on the defensive end. The Blazers struggled and at one point it looked as if they would miss the playoffs until the front office smartened up. During the Trade Deadline, the Blazers and Denver Nuggets struck a deal that would send scoring big man, Mason Plumlee to the Nuggets for defense player Jusuf Nurkic.
Once Nurkic took the court, the Blazers playoff chances became a reality.
But then tragedy struck the team yet again as Nurkic went down with an injury right before the playoffs. Talk about bad luck. Maybe he would have made a difference against the Warriors maybe not but moving forward, the Blazers must get stronger upfront or they could suffer the same fate next season. The talent is there, especially on the offensive side but where is the post defense?
Nurkic was a great addition, however, the Blazers made one mistake. They should have gone after Nerlens Noel when the Philadelphia 76ers had him on the open market.
He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks but he will be a free agent again this offseason and the Blazers would be wise to sign him up. Noel is the missing piece to the Blazers woes. Last season, in 51 games for the Mavericks, 76ers he averaged 9 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in 22 minutes per. If the Blazers can pair him in the frontcourt with Nurkic and offer him 30 minutes, his number will easily increase to a double-double.
There will be no offensive plays that will need to be run through him which leaves Noel to do what he does best and what the Blazers need most. Someone to defend the post.
Noel won’t be cheap but if the Blazers can move either Crabbe, Leonard or possibly Harkless or Aminu then this could work. The team is right on the cusp despite their showing against the Warriors. The Blazers made a mistake and let Noel slip through their fingers. They would be wise to not let that happen again.