Despite the franchise's previous failures, the Portland Trail Blazers are confident they can lure impactive talent

Despite the franchise's previous failures, the Portland Trail Blazers are confident they can lure im ...

Joe Cronin, interim head of operations, said Monday that he hadn't yet prepared a PowerPoint presentation to attract talent during a reorganization of the Portland Trail Blazers. Nothing is in the works.

Slams him, coach Chauncey Billups, and star guard Damian Lillard in a room trying to sell a player they desire on the organization, the team, the coaching staff, and living in Rip City.

So, itll essentially be ourselves and be active and aggressive, Cronin said. Telling stories about this organization and pitching actors on what we believe in, how they can come in and help us achieve these goals.

Will that be enough to reverse a situation that has plagued this organization for decades? It's time to tell.

The challenge involves securing or trading for an impact player to help turn the Portland Trail Blazers into a contender.

After a poor start in order to reorganize around Lillard in hopes of achieving a championship, the Blazers incurred a $21 million trade exception and possibly a lottery winner from New Orleans. This was a choice due to the fact that the roster as previously fabricated did not intend to wreak havoc on the team.

The Blazers, who ended up 27-55, did not give up equal value in talent. Guard Josh Hart, who was acquired in the McCollum trade to New Orleans, has proven major so far. Defensive forward Justise Winslow, who was involved in the transfer that sent Powell and Robert Covington to the LA Clippers, has also looked like a future rotational player.

There is no denying that the Blazers did not acquire the skills they need to fight through those deals. That part of the program comes this offseason by way of utilizing cap space and the trade exception, as well as their own lottery choice.

Is it possible for the Blazers to come to an end with an impact talent? It's certain that a stalemate would be a departure from previous patterns.

Portland hasn't been a destination for high-end talent that put the team in contention. In 2016 the Blazers had tons of cap space but came away with Evan Turner as the free-agent prize. They've attempted to run off trades for large names only to have said names that they would not re-sign long term in Portland.

If these two scenarios come out again, the Blazers' retooling project will be a disaster. They cannot merely add two more players the caliber of Hart and Winslow and expect to make in-roads in the deep Western Conference. They have to hit a home run. At least a triple. Otherwise, the battle will remain stuck in the mud.

Cronin and Billups believe everything will be different this time around. That they will bring different elements to the table and succeed, as did former coach Terry Stotts and Neil Olshey, who served as president of basketball operations.

On Monday, April 11, 2022, Portland Trail Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin wrote questions from the media during his departure remarks at the team's practice facility in Tualatin, Oregon. Sean Meagher/The Oregonian Meagher

Given the lack of the class, landing a player will likely not be done on free agency this summer. A significant impact player will likely come from trade, which means the Blazers would then have to sell that player on re-signing with Portland.

Jerami Grant, a Detroit forward, is one of the stars on the Blazers' radar. He has one year left on his contract and will be eligible for a four-year, $111 million extension. Grant will be selling on long term basis.

What will happen to Portland, either with Grant, or with another trading objective?

The powers that be believe that Billups will be a huge selling point for players. Billups said a lot of players would want to play for a coach like him, who had an excellent career in the NBA, and who will keep them accountable in order to succeed.

Im a guy who believes that even the great players want to be coached, said Billups. Everybody wants to be coached because most people really want to be great. Im not the dude that believes that because a dude is already great that there is no other level that he can make it to. So, Ill continue to coach everybody. And Im going to hold everyone accountable. This year, and they actually appreciated that.

Anfernee Simons, a point guard who advanced under the Billups this season, said the Billups will certainly resonate with players.

"His reputation as a player speaks for itself," Simons said of Billups, who led the Detroit Pistons to the 2004 NBA championship. "He's been through everything. Because he's been in every situation. So, he is the perfect coach to play for and to learn from."

Billups said words like that from players will go a long way with targeted players.

"When that pursuit happens, they end up calling our competitors," Billups said.

Cronin and his role as Billups will be asked.

Billups said, I've been there. I know how this goes..

Billups said he is confident that Cronin, given his unassuming and modest yet confident demeanor, will resonate with the players.

I know the other players around the league and I understand how they are, Billups said. Joe is just different. He has a certain ease, but also a sense of belonging to him.

As the Portland Trail Blazers close the season against the Utah Jazz at Moda Center on Sunday, April 10, 2022, Nassir Little, Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, and Damian Lillard watch from the bench. Sean Meagher/The Oregonian Meagher

Because the market itself has not been a great selling point, star players with options prefer larger markets for a variety of reasons. Off-court opportunities. Nightlife. Proximity to other areas of the country. Portland is lacking in these areas compared to a lot of NBA cities.

Hart has embraced Portland. He was drafted by the LA Lakers in 2017 before being traded to New Orleans.

I think small-market teams are always knocked for being a small market, he said. In my short time here, being in Portland has been amazing. [...] It doesn't feel like a small market. You have supporters who come out every game to help us. We've been experiencing a lot of problems the last 20 games. They're losing some games by 20-30 points and keeping them until the end of the game.

One of the biggest selling points will be playing with Lillard, a consummate professional and All-NBA qualifier.

Everybody knows what he brings to the table as a player, as a leader, as a player, Simons said. I think that makes a lot of players feel confident about winning and want to do something. I think that will help attract a lot of people who want to win and do something.

The Blazers have plenty of time to prepare their plans. The NBA draft isn't until June 23. Their ability to flee for the summer will play a vital role in the franchise's success. In-season moves that led to the franchise's worst record in 16 seasons.

I believe we have a good balance of an outstanding city, a great atmosphere in the arena, and we got players that are hungry, coaches hungry, and front office people who are hungry to make their mark in this league, Hart said. And I think thats a key selling point for us.

Aaron Fentress | | (Twitter, Inc., Inc.)

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