'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview: #29, Portland Trail Blazers

By Rob Perez
None
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  • Player Salaries:
  • Season in Review:
  • The Good: Not a whole lot went right for the Portland Trail Blazers this Summer, but, despite losing their entire team this off season: the Blazers still have some things to hang their hats on. First of which: they won the Northwest Division! Second: a couple of their bench/role players, who will have an increased role during the 2015-2016 campaign, showed that they actually have a pulse – more specifically: C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard. McCollum posted the team’s third-highest 16.1 Player Efficiency Rating (PER, league average = 15), and shot a ridiculous 48% from three-point land (4.6 attempts per game) in the playoff series vs. Memphis. In addition: Meyers Leonard completely broke out. In the same playoff series vs. the Grizzlies, Meyers recorded a team-high +6.5 Box Score (+/-), and proved himself as a legitimate outside threat as a center (51% field goal percentage over the course of the entire year with 46% of his shots being three-pointers). Third, and most importantly: Damian Lillard has evolved into a perennial superstar. This timing of Lillard becoming a superhero couldn’t be anymore impeccable because…
  • The Bad: R.I.P. City. The mass exodus this off season of what made the Blazers ‘the Blazers’ — was nothing short of catastrophic. All-Star and MVP contender LaMarcus Aldridge: gone, no compensation in return. Ironman shooting guard Wes Matthews: (hurt) and gone, no compensation in return. Nicolas Batum: Gone, in exchange for a Gerald Henderson and Noah Vanleh (to their credit: this might actually be a good thing in a couple years if Noah can live up to expectations…). It’s rebuilding time in Portland, no ifs ands or buts about it. Between Ed Davis, Moe Harkless, Mike Miller, Mason Plumlee — the Blazers lost their dollar bill and it was returned to them in the form of 50 pennies. That may even be too much of a compliment, the smallest denomination of Yen might be more appropriate here.
  • The Ugly: Al-Farouq Aminu’s contract. $30 Million guaranteed over 4 years.
  • Baseless God Wob

Let’s continue that thought … Did the Blazers panic sign Al-Farouq Aminu to appease LaMarcus Aldridge – the same way that the Miami Heat went out and gave Josh McRoberts 24 million dollars too many at the beginning of the 2014 free agency period in hopes of retaining LeBron – and now have to eat it? The short answer: yes.

I get that the collective bargaining agreement will increase the salary cap exponentially starting with the 2016-2017 season, and this contract won’t look as “bad” as it would with a lesser cap maximum, but, regardless: Al-Farouq Aminu, under no circumstances, should be locked into a long-term deal making $30 million to play professional basketball. Ever. Let me elaborate, here are the advanced career metrics for two NBA players:

Player 1:

  • 11.4 Points Per Game
  • 45.3% FG
  • 12.6 PER
  • 6.0 VORP
  • -0.5 Box Score (+/-)

Player 2:

  • 6.4 Points Per Game
  • 43.7% FG
  • 12.4 PER
  • 3.5 VORP
  • -0.3 Box Score (+/-)

(I understand that these statistics only tell one part of a much bigger story in re: to “what makes an NBA player great”, however, these are the first numbers I look at every time I’m interested in analyzing a player’s impact. Maybe that’s why I’m here typing this and not in an NBA front office making personnel decision, I dunno.)

Player 1 is Arron Afflalo, who the Blazers replaced with Player 2: Al-Farouq Aminu. Arron Afflalo signed a 2 year pact with the New York Knicks this offseason that pays him ~$16 million, which is technically a little bit more per year than Aminu will make in Portland – but that’s not my beef here, it’s the number of years; which, in the NBA, are arguably more important than the amount of $ in the contract itself. For example: Gerald Wallace’s ridiculously stupid contract with the Celtics. When it had two years and ~$20ish million remaining on it, Wallace was considered ‘untradeable’ because … well … he sucks. However, once it become an expiring deal – it all of-a-sudden became a tremendous opportunity for lottery-bound teams to wipe their slate clean/plan to clear a ton of salary off the books after the season/open up cap space to go after free agents with the following year (i.e. the 76ers, who traded for him because they know they’re going to be terrible). These overpaid players on expiring deals are absolute gold to teams looking to hit the ‘reset’ button … they kill two birds with one stone: tanking and cap space.

In conclusion: I just don’t like the Aminu deal, no matter how you try to spin it… He had a really nice year in Dallas last season, but, Portland could have offered him the same package that the Knicks ultimately offered Afflalo and Al-Farouq would have eventually taken it.

No, he would not have had that contract matched; stop it, he is Al-Farouq Aminu. Why do you think he signed a long-term deal with a Blazer team, who is all but a lock to finish in the cellar of the Western Conference?

PDX: Ya’ll better hope Aminu maintains the level of career-high efficiency he produced in Dallas last year, as you’re stuck with him until 2019.

P.S. Part of me thinks Damian Lillard just LOVES having this entire team to himself. Dude has a FAT new $120 million contract and absolutely ZERO expectations for the franchise to do well. You know what that means: we might be on the verge of this generation’s Stephon Marbury starting this year – where the goal every night is to score 50 points regardless of the number of shots they attempt getting there, make the SportsCenter Top 10, any open shot inside the arena is within range, and if you’re his teammate: you better like rebounding.

  • 2015-2016 Season Projection:
    • 22-60 Record
    • 15th Place in West
    • No Playoffs
  • Fan Mindset, as told by Hollywood:
    • Frodo Baggins, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Farewell LaMarcus Baggins, Sam Weiss Wes, and Merry Batum of the shire. May you find the greener pastures you so desire.

  • Baseless God Wob’s 3 Divine Questions:
  • Should Noah Vanleh start? What does PDX have to lose?
  • What is Damian Lillard box score ceiling now that LaMarcus Aldridge is gone from the offense? 20 PTS/10 AST per game doable?
  • Let’s say Aminu comes out-of-the-gates and plays well, do you sell high and trade him in February for draft compensation?

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PREVIOUS PREVIEWS:

#30: Philadelphia 76ers

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