Fizer's Take: Portland Trail Blazers
When you're a young team filled with loads of talent... Add in Greg Oden, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless and get set for another season run, you would be a team to watch out for and it's a definite guarantee... The Blazers did just that... They got Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake and a couple more key players to make this team the MOST intriguing team in the NBA... All eyes were set on Greg Oden's first season... After being selected with the number 1 overall pick last 2007, he went downslide after going under the knife. He was expected to perform but when you look at a glimpse on his NBA Debut which was against the Lakers, y'all would know that things weren't going to be that easy for the big guy... He wasn't near the Bill Russell comparison, and not even close with the David Robinson too. Injury bug plagued him the whole year as he never made much of an impact during his rookie tenure. He did post 8.9 ppg and 7.0 rpg, not bad but you have to consider the high expectations shouldered on the guy. Still, you can't complain when you got Joel Pryzbilla picking up the slack when GO is injured and of course, Aldridge who will provide that low post presence on offense... They also bought in a pair of promising players in Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez... Both guys immediately were thrust into the Coach Nate's rotation and solidly made an impact. Jerryd Bayless, no matter how good he was in the Summer League, was left unattended at the end of the bench. Brandon Roy is still the leader of this rising team and has always been the All-Star that many expected him to be. The Blazers went on to finish off the season at 54-28 after going in at 41-41 in 2007-08. They made the playoffs for the first time in awhile and though they were ranked 4th in the West, they just couldn't stop the hunger of Yao Ming and the Rockets. They were knocked out in 6 games. Still, you can tell that Portland is getting better and better as a team. Thanks to a very aggressive GM and of course, pure luck in acquiring guys like Roy, Aldridge and Oden. Expect a deeper run by the Blazers in the Playoffs this coming year.
When you think about the Blazers on Draft Night, you always have it in the back of your mind that Kevin Pritchard is going to be aggressive. The last 2006, 2007 and 2008 draft, he was very much aggressive and look at what he got... A core of young players that could contend in the upcoming years. The 2009 NBA Draft for the Blazers was so-so and it wasn't that intriguing compared to the last 3 NBA Drafts that Portland did. Pritchard did what he had to do as usual and made a deal with Dallas to move a little bit higher in the draft board. They took Victor Claver with the 22nd pick. Claver is a 6-10 combo forward who got off to a great start in Spain’s ACB League this season before missing a lot of time with a knee injury. He’s a typical big European wing in that the scouts love his athleticism, his range out to the three-point line and his fundamental approach to things. He doesn’t create his own shot well, needs to get tougher and isn’t very consistent at this point in his development. Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham are two solid forwards that could be solid once they play a minute of NBA time. Both are athletic and both can give hustle points and solid games once they're given the chance. They were taken by Portland at 31 (from Sacramento) and 33 (from LA Clippers) respectively. Solid but not great. Patty Mills is a nice pick-up at 55. Mills whose stock has gone down terribly was left available for Portland to pick him up and it's sad to see him shaking the hands of Adam Silver after waiting for almost 4 hours. Overall, Mills was probably the best pick Portland made, only Claver has any real upside and that is a big maybe with him.
The offseason was a blur for the Blazers. Just when you think they had the game won then all of a sudden the ball rolls out of the rim and they lose... Tsk... Tsk... Pretty darn bad... That's what they did during the offseason... Their first target was Paul Millsap... They offered him a contract but was immediately matched by Utah... Then there was Hedo Turkoglu being wooed by the Blazers... He ended up wearing a Raptors uniform... So things didn't go as planned... However, they did have a huge availability for a free agent since Raef LaFrentz contract expired. They wanted a solid player and to fill up the spot vacated by Sergio Rodriguez, they signed in veteran Andre Miller. It was a solid signing despite not really the Blazer's interest but still, having Miller will lessen the pressure off of some of the players on the team. It was a dispute over who's going to start at the point guard spot... Will it be Steve Blake or Andre Miller? The Blazers went for Blake for now... The team also made huge signings by re-signing Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to as much as $8o and $65 Million Dollars respectively. As for the other things, expect Portland to give 'em hell this year. The Rose Garden always have its playoff atmosphere especially when the Lakers are in town, can they be able to beat Kobe and the rest of the Lake Show again? Can Greg Oden bounce back after a dismal season? Can Brandon Roy continue his dominance for this team? Will they be able to go deeper into the playoffs following a year of experience? With my eyes set on this team, it will be a battle that I can't wait to watch...
NBA Draft Grade: C+
NBA Offseason Grade: B
Predicted W-L: 58-24
This is just a writer's opinion... Anyone care to comment, I am open for it^^
I know there are many who say you can never have enough talent, but I disagree. I think team chemistry is vital, especially in basketball where you must share the ball with 4 other guys. When very talented players don't get enough playing time, they often develop negative attitudes and habits. That's why many successful coaches create rosters with role players who know they will never be stars and/or get lots of playing time. I think far too many people underestimate the importance of role players.
They have so much talent in Portland, most of their recent top draft choices were either traded or they were European players whom they simply left in Europe to develop and don't seem the least bit interested in bringing them to the NBA.
That list of high draft choices from Europe who were never brought to America includes:
Victor Claver, a high flying forward from Spain
Omer Asik, a big man from Turkey
Joel Freeland, another big man from England
Petteri Koponen, an outstanding PG prospect from Finland
By the way, do you think Portland will ever have enough point guards?
There's another problem I have with Portland that I never hear anyone else bring up. They have a very strong tendency in the 4th quarter to give the ball to Brandon Roy and stand around and watch him go one on one. Don't get me wrong, Brandon Roy is a great talent, but a good offense should be a balanced team offense.
I agree with you 100%. I posted about Portland being too deep with young talent during the summer. Majority of their players are young and looking to spread their wings, become starters, land a big contract, etc. I read that they were having trouble even getting players to workout for them during the draft because their roster already had so much young talent. I think Kevin Pritchard is great at drafting, but is overrated as a general manager. He overvalues young talent too a point of insanity. The time is now for Portland. I keep hearing how smart he is. Hopefully, he has something planned where he's going to package some of this young talent together and make a trade that'll put this team over the hump. Portland needs an established small forward that can compliment Roy. They could also use a tough backup power forward that can rebound and get points around the basket win needed. I think the best rotation is a very good eight/nine man rotation, with two or three more players who don't expect big minutes and just play their role when they get in.
It's great you brought up the players who Portland has stored away overseas because people don't really think about that.
I couldn't agree with you more about their over reliance on Roy during 4th quarters. I think this hurt them versus Houston during the playoffs because it made them predictable. This is where I thought Miller would help. He'd give them another ball handler to create effectively off the dribble and allow Roy to slash. I thought Roy would be estatic about this, but instead he complained about not having the ball as much. Head scratcher.
I'm glad somebody finally agrees with me. I've repeatedly said that many people don't understand how important role players are to team chemistry. Tezo83, as you pointed out above, young guys who want to land a big contract and/or impress everyone with their scoring ability may not necessarily be a good fit for your team.
When you look at the number of high draft choices they made and left in Europe, you have to wonder what they're doing. You can only have so many young, future stars on one team. I think you hit the nail on the head with Kevin Pritchard. He's great at recognizing talent, especially drafting young talent, but putting together a TEAM may not be his strong point.
There's something else I didn't say above, but I repeatedly said it BEFORE they drafted Greg Oden. I thought all along they should have taken Kevin Durrant, whom I thought was the closest thing to a sure fire future NBA All Star when he was at Texas. Greg Oden may yet turn into a valuable player, but Kevin Durrant is something special. It reminds me of that blown opportunity to take Michael Jordan.
I think among many other flaws, NBA GMs place too much value on height.
Oooo... I agreed with everything until the Greg Oden comment! I can definitely understand your opinion though. Kevin Durant was an amazing player coming out of Texas.
Remember what you said though... "Young guys who want to land a big contract and/or impress everyone with their scoring ability may not necessarily be a good fit for your team." At the time, that was the logic they used to select Oden over Durant. They'd already had their scorers in Roy and Aldridge. They needed a center to control the paint.
Be patient with Oden. If not for the knee injury, this wouldn't be a conversation. It set him back tremendously. He's going to get better. He'll never be an amazing scorer like Durant, but eventually he may impact the game even more. He has the ability to control the paint at both ends, which is what will bring you championship rings. GM's do overvalue height sometimes because you can't teach it, but Oden is more than just height. I understand where you're coming from, but let's be patient.
I think you definitely made good points on both counts, Greg Oden might yet turn into a very valuable player and maybe Kevin Durrant wouldn't be the best fit in Portland. I understand the logic of having a guy like Oden fit in with the overall team concept and that makes sense. Having said that, I still would have taken Durrant before Oden because of several reasons.
1. As I stated above, Durrant was a sure fire future all star and you couldn't say that about Oden.
2. In addition to being an outstanding scorer, Durrant was a great rebounder at Texas. Finding guys who do both are next to impossible.
3. He's a great young man who came from a very good family, the kind of character guy everyone loves.
Meanwhile, there's no point going further with this interesting side issue because it's over, Portland has Oden.
I think Rudy Fernandez is one of the great young talents in the NBA, but he seems lost in Portland's offense. It's almost as if McMillan has no clue as to how Fernandez can work with and compliment Brandon Roy. In my opinion, this is symbolic of what's wrong with Portland [very similar to their PG situation, which is a mess].
We talked earlier about Roy going one on one during the 4th quarter while his teammates stand around and watch him. Tezo83 made a great point, he described that offense as predictable.
In my opinion, McMillan should play R. Fernandez at SG and Roy at SF, which should help create a team offense with lots of cutting through the lane. I think that might rectify that issue of guys standing around, watching B. Roy going "one on one" late in the last quarter.
The problem with Fernandez is that he plays the exact same position as Roy. Even still, I don't think McMillian is using him effectively. He's using Fernandez as a spot up 3-point shooter and energy guy when Fernandez can do so much more.
I think playing Fernandez at the two and Roy at the three would have to depend on the matchups. Roy is about 6' 6" 205, so he can't really defend bigger/taller small forwards. I think they played Blake, Fernandez and Roy together quite often last season.
I completely agree that McMillan is using Fernandez strictly as a spot up shooter when one of his major strengths is his ability to go drive to the hoop and to kind of jump start a motion offense.
As for Roy and the matchups against certain small forwards, I always say it goes both ways Tezo83. In other words, if a small forward is bigger and stronger than Roy, he can take him down low. But on the other end of the court, Roy has the quickness advantage that should help him dominate on offense.
More importantly, playing Roy at SF allows both Roy and Fernandez, arguably their two best offensive players, to be on the court simultaneously. In my opinion, this lineup should almost be a staple during the 4th quarter.
I just remember during the playoffs versus Houston. They went to that lineup of Blake, Fernandez and Roy... Artest absolutely punished them. He then hounded Roy at the other end.
In my opinion, they just need to move the ball. Move the ball and more players need to attack off the dribble drive, instead of settling for jump shots. Use Roy, their superstar, in isolation situations only when they need him to.
Ron Artest is one of those big strong guys who somehow has the ability to keep up with a quicker SF. I think Artest is an exception to the rule. More often than not, I would rather have a quicker player than a stronger one. From my perspective, basketball is a game of quickness, but I do realize that strength also plays a critical role, especially in the NBA.
We essentially agree on your solution for the Portland offense. I learned many years ago from a New York City high school coach about offense and motion. He always asked us, "What do you think the other 4 guys are doing when one of our players is constantly going on one one?" The answer of course was obvious, they were standing around watching him. I always thought of his advice when I watched Alan Iverson play.
As we discussed earlier in this thread, one of Portland's major problems is their 4th quarter offense. What is that offense? They give the ball to Brandon Roy and stand around watching while he goes one on one. That is hardly a formula for success.
As Tezo83 and I repeatedly pointed out in this thread, they need to go to a motion offense. That's why I think they should utilize R. Fernandez at the SG slot and move Brandon Roy to SF.