Not The Rebuild You Are Looking For
With a gentle wave of his hand, Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey was convinced that the right course of action after losing LaMarcus Aldridge to free agency was to surround point guard Damian Lillard with similar-aged players and rebuild around his blossoming star. Now, 68 games later, not only have the Blazers found a groove, they are 14 games away from a playoff run in what was supposed to a be a rebuilding year.
Sure, it’s easy to rebuild when you have two breakout stars in Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but the Blazers haven’t gotten here just because of those two guys. They are here because many of the players Olshey added over the summer (who matched Lillard’s career trajectory) are paying dividends too, and some of them are not getting enough credit.
Al-Farouq Aminu, who signed a four-year deal worth $30 million, has been producing way above his career averages and has been a solid contributor – specifically defensively.
Ed Davis, who signed a three-year deal worth $20 million this past summer, hasn’t been blowing the doors off offensively, but has pulled out a few double-digit rebounding games and been a great hustle player who does the dirty work for Portland.
As much credit as Lillard and McCollum get for the Blazers’ success, a sort of unsung hero from the bench has been Allen Crabbe. With several big games from the bench, Crabbe is shooting 46.5 percent from the field on the season and 37.3 percent from the three-point line in an offense where 23 percent of the shots come from Lillard and 21 percent come from McCollum.
None of these guys have been game changers all by themselves, but when combined with an MVP-caliber Lillard and arguably the runaway Most Improved Player in McCollum they have helped Portland become a top up-and-coming team.
The Blazers have not only figured out how to win as a unit, they find themselves looking at what could be a somewhat favorable first-round playoff matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have struggled over their last 14 games notching eight losses in that span.
The other by-product of this season is that that Blazers could enter free agency coming off a playoff appearance and having some $40 million in cap space to play with in free agency. That’s an attractive situation for a team that was supposedly rebuilding.
The Blazers may not be anyone’s favorite to last long in the postseason, but considering that the prevailing thought was the Blazers’ season would be ending in April, the fact that they are 35-33 with 16 games left to play is impressive. Olshey was clearly right to surround his point guard with these kinds of players, and so far it’s worked out even better than expected.
Cleaning Up Some Inaccuracies
Earlier in the week, we covered some of the issues facing the Sacramento Kings this summer. While we always strive to be as accurate as possible, sometimes the way things get expressed does not always line up with how they were intended.
In the case of the Kings, specifically their ownership situation, there needs to be a few things clarified.
Vivek Ranadive is the managing general partner of the Kings and has total operational control of the franchise. While Ranadive does have several minority partners, he does not need or require their approval on any matters related to the operation of the team. There has been some suggestion that some of the minority owners would like a bigger voice in the process, but the partnership agreement places Ranadive as the sole decision maker for the team.
As it pertains to those minority owners, while some league sources have characterized the group as unhappy, it was pointed out that none of the minority owners have ever been cited specifically or quoted as having anything but glowing support for the direction of the team, despite its current struggles. Many of the partners have been quoted as being extremely happy with their investment in the Kings and where things are headed.
Ranadive joked with the Sacramento Bee recently saying, “If somebody’s unhappy, I’ll write them a check today.”
The Kings are way ahead of schedule as it pertains to their new arena, Golden 1 Center, and have exceeded internal sales goals.
So far, the Kings have sold 11,000 full season ticket packages for the first season. They have completely sold out the Club Seat section, which is defined as the first nine rows on the sidelines. Most of those agreement are three-to-five years in length. The Kings have sold 48 loft spaces, and 34 suites, each carrying a 10-year (or more) commitment.
There is no question that failing to reach the postseason has brought out a lot of negative voices and criticism of the process, but the one thing the Kings see in front of them is a bright future and that’s part of their message – not only to fans, but to their current players as well as would-be free agents.
The Kings have been actively looking to add to their front office and plan to be aggressive again in free agency.
As they say, every story has two sides and the Kings’ side of the story is that things are not always what they appear from the outside looking in. They are pretty pleased with where they are, and simply expect to be better on the court next season.
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