Quantcast Portland Trail Blazers 2008: Team of the Future to Struggle (at least temporarily)


'Team of the Future' to Struggle (at least temporarily)


Under the guidance of Kevin Pritchard, the Portland Trailblazers have assembled one of the youngest, most talented teams in the league, headlined by a 7-foot beast Greg Oden, young stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, and Spanish League MVP Rudy Fernandez in addition to other talented youngsters, such as Jerryd Bayless and Martell Webster. Out of that group, only Fernandez was not a lottery pick (bought from the Suns for $3 million as the #24 pick in ’07), and all are 24 or younger.

Trail Blazers hatsOh, and, they could have close to 20 million in cap space this summer to add pieces to the existing talent. (If DMiles does not play 9 or more games this season, they’ll have closer to 30, depending on the cap numbers). Coach Nate McMillan stated that the Blazers are the “team of the future”. Their future is certainly bright.

However, after winning 41 in the 2007-08 season, a win total of 45 or higher and a Western Conference playoff berth may be too lofty as expectations. Aside from an 18 game stretch where the Blazers went 17-1, which also included a 13-game win streak last season, Portland only had two winning months, December and January, and folded in the last two weeks of playoff run. Without the near perfect 18-game run, the promising group played only .375 ball. At that pace, it amounts to roughly 31 wins.

The question remains whether adding four rookies in Oden, Bayless, Fernandez, and Batum will translate to more wins than last season. Finding cohesion in the unit looks like a difficult task with so many green players. Steve Blake and Joel Przybilla are the only veterans in the rotation who not on their first contract, and they have a mere 14 playoff games combined between them. Neither are more than complementary role-players.

Portland will also struggle to score throughout the season without a go-to scorer. While Roy is a good all-around player, he is best suited as a #2 option as he lacks elite athleticism. Oden is far from being Hakeem offensively at this point, and Aldridge relies on face-up jumpers, not a post game, to get his points. Outlaw, who has been touting his refined jumper all offseason, is a career 44% shooter, hitting only 43% last year. The star rookies Bayless and Fernandez may be the best suited to carry the team when in need of a bucket, which is more than a lot to ask from rookies on a team expected to make a push for not just the playoffs, but to win close to 50 wins. And, they’re also lacking an elite playmaking point guard to setup easy hoops.

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Injuries are yet another factor. Oden make headlines for a simple sprain on his foot after missing all of last season with the much maligned micro-facture surgery. Portland’s best player, Brandon Roy, has missed a combined 33 games in his first two seasons, and his heel has been a problem throughout his career. Bench big man, Channing Frye has already had surgery on his ankle, although he is currently playing. The sharp-shooting Webster is out two months with a stress fracture.

Unless they can trade for a go-to scorer that fits into their future plans (Carmelo Anthony has been the subject of various rumors), winning 40 games would be excellent for this team, which would put them in the hunt for the eight-seed. There are too many questions and too much inexperience to expect more than that. With all the talent, cap space and flexibility of a future dynasty, they’re at least a year and a player away from making “the leap” to the contenders. This year will be about experience, development, and building cohesion, not contention.



By John Looney
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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