We had such high hopes for the Blazers. They had max cap space coming off of a surprising trip to the second round. They had their two stars in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Hassan Whiteside was a realistic possibility, but even if they missed on his, surely they’d find their rim-protector and maybe another defensive wing, right?
Nope. The Blazers went the other way. They blew their wad on Evan Turner.
Evan Turner is a fine basketball player with several useful traits. Secondary creation and ball-handling is useful. Isolation scoring is useful. The ability to play multiple positions is useful. They are just not things that the Blazers needed.
They already have Lillard and McCollum. Ball-handling is the one thing they absolutely do not need. One is on the floor at all times, so I’m not sure when Turner gets to be the ball-handler he’s used to being. Positional versatility is nice, but the Blazers are locked in at point guard, shooting guard and power forward. They didn’t need someone who could do Al Farouq Aminu’s job, they needed someone who could complement Aminu.
But Turner doesn’t do that. He’s not big enough to guard power forwards, allowing Aminu to be the stopper he’s paid to be and forcing him to take on the burlier low-post threats Portland will see plenty of in the West.
Ok, so Turner was a misstep. At least the Blazers got their rim-protector, right?
Nope. They chased Pau Gasol for… some reason. They let Bismack Biyombo, Ian Mahinmi and every other meaningful defensive center slip away while they waited for the one big man on the market who did absolutely nothing to help them. They were already the seventh best offense in basketball last season. Maybe Gasol gets them to 5th. Neat. That won’t make a difference if they can’t defend anyone.
This is a classic case of a team feeling the need to spend on something rather than waiting to spend correctly. Even if Portland had just sat out free agency altogether they could’ve brought money into next summer’s frenzy and chased someone like Blake Griffin. But the contract they gave Turner isn’t going away. McCollum needs to be paid. Even if these were smarter deals, it’s not as though there was any reason to go all in on this season. Lillard and McCollum are still young. There’s plenty of good will from last season, they could’ve taken a step back and no one would bat an eyelash.
But now the Blazers have spent their future flexibility building a team that doesn’t make any sense. They might make the playoffs again, but they certainly won’t advance any further than they did last season.