The impending loss of star forward LaMarcus Aldridge has pushed the Trail Blazers into a mode of prudent, long-game wagering. After acquiring rising sophomore Noah Vonleh last week, picking up Mason Plumlee on draft night, and committing to Al-Farouq Aminu in the opening hours of free agency, Portland made another move to that end in reportedly agreeing to sign 26-year-old big man Ed Davis to a three-year, $20 million contract.
No team in the Western Conference is going to stumble its way into the playoffs. Those that qualify for the top eight will have done so by amassing top-tier players and considerable supporting talent, the likes of which aren’t realistically in the Blazers’ immediate future. It makes sense, then, for Portland to spend its intervening years by amassing talented players on the come-up. A standard deal for Davis (with 4.5% annual raises) would pay him less than $7 million annually through the next three seasons of his playing prime. That’s a pocket-change contract relative to where the cap will settle in 2016 and 2017, even without assuming the kind of development that would make Davis’ deal any more valuable.
Forget fit. There isn’t yet a satisfactory answer for how Davis, Vonleh, Plumlee, Aminu, and Meyers Leonard (not to mention Chris Kaman) would mesh into a workable frontcourt rotation because the Blazers aren’t currently in the business of making a seamless basketball team. There are bound to be gaps and redundancies. Some will be addressed through internal development. Others will make for lasting problems. What’s important at this juncture is that Portland makes decisions that serve the construction of its next contending team rather than whatever patchwork roster it fields in the present.
Davis is a terrific rebounder, an efficient scorer, and a viable team defender. But most important of all: His addition signifies a forward-thinking approach at a time when the Blazers could have operated from a position of panic and desperation. This track, though sometimes unsatisfying for fans, makes progress through judicious activity.
Nothing the Blazers have done yet this summer will compromise their ability to wield cap space in trades and free agency over the next few seasons. Nothing in the way they’ve operated will preclude them from finding another star to work alongside Damian Lillard. Every player acquired has a chance to become better than they were at the moment they became a Blazer, and thus either a useful component of a winning team or valuable, tradeable means in the aim for Portland to become just that.