Thanks to Kevin Pritchard and the management in Portland, the Trail Blazers are a stacked team with a ton of potential. The team has loaded up on great draft picks over the past few years, and this year the team will have the chance to unleash its entire arsenal on the league. With Greg Oden making his long awaited debut, and the emergence of Brandon Roy as a true star, Portland fans have a reason to be excited about this year. The Blazers were one of the best teams in the league last year NOT to make the Playoffs, but with all of the additions this year, they have high expectations. The talent and potential of this team is off the wall, but if they can’t stay healthy, or are unable to integrate Oden in with the rest of the rotation, another near miss could be in the works.
Offense: Brandon Roy’s value to this team’s offense is immeasurable, as he is the team’s best scorer, and playmaker. Roy can take over on offense, but at the same time can fit in as a role player, and allow for his teammates to work out certain situations. Roy, however, isn’t the only player on this team with offensive versatility. Rudy Fernandez, fresh off a spectacular showing in the Olympics, will get plenty of time opposite Roy in the lineup, or off the bench as a great role player. Fernandez can score in bunches, but can also create for the other guys, which means taking a back seat to others, something many players won’t try anymore. Rudy is fine with being a role player, but at the same time, he can turn it up to a very high level, as evidenced in Beijing.
How Greg Oden will be used offensively is a big question, but with Brandon Roy and the rest of the talent on the roster, Oden could be valuable in the post. He has size and strength, but with the great playmakers on this squad, Oden won’t have to force any shots, and will be able to progress within the lineup at a steady pace. If Oden picks up on the mechanics of the offense quickly, they will be a Playoff team, and a scary one at that.
Defense: The Blazers were a good defensive team last year, but they lacked a post presence that would force people away from the inside. Joel “Vanilla Gorilla” Przybilla is a beast when he’s on the defensive end, but his offensive inabilities make him a liability on the floor. With a healthy Greg Oden, that problem is solved. LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid help-defender, and a great compliment to Oden in the post. Travis Outlaw and Brandon Roy are also solid perimeter and man to man defenders, so this team has some stability. They won’t be perfect, but their defense will be very strong this year, unless they can’t stay healthy.
Strengths: This team has so much depth it’s mind-boggling. Aside from the big names like Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, this team has plenty of talent. Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Jerryd Bayless, Steve Blake, Martell Webster, Joel Przybilla, etc…..Even if a big name does go down, the bench has things covered, covered, and covered.
Weaknesses: The talent on this team is unmatched, but everyone is just so young. Chemistry may be a problem, and the team will falter due to the unbelievably young age of the team’s top players, whether they are tuned in together or no. This weakness might matter very little, especially if everyone is on the same page, but it will be a problem at some point during the year.
Five Players to Watch:
Brandon Roy - Roy is the man holds this team together, and will be that same player this year. His offensive skills are top-notch, and his humble demeanor makes him the perfect leader on this young Portland team. Hopefully Roy doesn’t miss too much time early on, as they will need him to set up the chemistry for this squad. Roy is the heart of this team, and the Blazers will need him on the court if they have any hopes of making it to the postseason.
Greg Oden - The first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft will finally be making his debut at the start of the 2008 regular season. Oden has been heralded as being a top-notch defensive player, and an unselfish leader on the floor. It may take a while for Oden to get accustomed to the NBA game, but he shouldn’t have many troubles this season, unless they are health related. If he can keep clear of the injury bug, “God” will be the Rookie of the Year.
LaMarcus Aldridge - Aldridge had a fantastic sophomore season for Portland, and will be looking to ride that great year into this season. Aldridge is a solid defender, especially when helping, and offensively he can spread the floor with his shooting. Perhaps most important for the Blazers, though, is that with Aldridge in the lineup, Oden’s development will be smooth in that he won’t be forced to be the go to guy in post-scoring situations. If Aldridge continues his development at the current pace, he will be an All-Star very soon.
Rudy Fernandez - For a while, this guy was a name tossed around by few as being a possible talent a few years down the road. Then, for about an hour, Fernandez was known as “that guy who dunked on Dwight” when he threw down a nasty jam on Team USA’s very own Dwight Howard in the Gold Medal Game. After that, he became a popular name amongst the NBA’s biggest fans, and after watching him in Beijing, Portland management and players are salivating over what he will accomplish this season. Rudy will provide much needed assistance for Brandon Roy in the backcourt, and if that is his only value to this team early on, that is all Portland needs from him. Big things are expected from this Spanish sensation, and big things will likely come.
Travis Outlaw - When the question is asked; who is Portland’s best clutch player? Most answers returned would probably be Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge. At the end of games, Travis Outlaw was the hero for the Blazers. “Mr. Fourth Quarter” is not afraid to take the big shots, and revels in the opportunities given to him. Outlaw is currently the sixth-man on this team, but a spot in the starting lineup would be well deserved. The clutch factor and defensive talents that Outlaw possesses make him invaluable in Portland’s rotation, and head coach Nate McMillan seems to know that.
Playoff Hopes: The Portland Trail Blazers have a great shot at making the Playoffs for the first time since 2003. The team will likely have good chemistry together, and their talent is immeasurable, so a Playoff opportunity seems to be ready for the taking. If they can not stay healthy, though, they will miss the Playoffs once again, considering that the West is still so powerful. A Playoff position is not a guarantee for Portland, but the likelihood of making an appearance is there.
Prediction: 2nd Place, Northwest Division