Paul Allen could have won a Super Bowl and NBA Finals trophy in the same year, but destiny does not see it that way. The Portland Trail Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs following game five against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were simply too good in this series. They blew out Portland in the first two games and even with a Blazers win in game three it was a long shot for them to come back in this series.
So what is next? The Blazers have already signed Head Coach Terry Stotts to a multi-year contract extension. He definitely deserves the extension considering the major improvements the Blazers have made, especially on the offensive end. They had the largest improvement in franchise history in the win-loss column going from a 33-49 record in the 2012-2013 season to a 54-28 record this season. The Trail Blazers won their first playoff series in over a decade this season under Stotts and are built to have success for years to come.
Unfortunately there is still a lot of work to do to get the Blazers to a level where they can compete with the best in the NBA. Even though General Manager Neil Olshey did a fantastic job in free agency last season he must have a better off-season this year. Additions have to be made to the Blazers bench so they can have a more reliable rotation. Their bench was especially bad in the playoffs as it was evident Stotts did not want to take the starters out often. The Trail Blazers need a bench they can turn to or else their starters will age faster and be more prone to injuries, but there is some definite potential there. One player that got some more playing time down the stretch of the playoffs was Will Barton. I would like to see Barton get more playing time next season because of his explosive scoring ability. He is definitely not shy about taking shots, sometimes a little too much, but he is a good athlete with big upside and potential.
I would also like to see Thomas Robinson step it up next year. Robinson did not get consistent minutes this year but when he did he brought an explosive dynamic to the floor that provided needed energy for the Blazers second unit.
One player that either needs to make huge leaps this offseason or needs to go is Myers Leonard. The Blazers knew Leonard was a project when they drafted him 11th overall in the 2012 draft, but he has been too weak in the paint on the offensive and defensive end for a seven-footer. He has to establish some kind of defensive presence to make himself valuable to this team. Robin Lopez is a solid center and should not go anywhere anytime soon, so Leonard just has to become a reliable big coming off the bench.
There is much to do this offseason for the Trail Blazers, but they have drastically improved and look to be a contender in the Western Conference for a while as long as they keep their starting line up together. Blazers fans should feel optimistic about this team and where they are going. A championship coming back to Rip City is not as far-fetched as some might think.
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