The Portland Trail Blazers are off to a 2-0 start this season. They once again figure to be fighting for a middle of the pack Western Conference playoff team. The challenge now is to get the monkey off their back by winning a post-season series; something they have not been able to do in more than a decade.
By: David Kay
Portland Blazers (50-32 in 2009-2010)
2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Marcus Camby/Fabricio Oberto/Greg Oden/Joel Pryzbilla
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge/Dante Cunningham
SF: Nicolas Batum/Wesley Matthews/Luke Babbitt
SG: Brandon Roy/Rudy Fernandez/Elliot Williams
PG: Andre Miller/Armon Johnson/Patrick Mills
Head Coach: Nate McMillan (6th season)
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $68.1 million
-Blazers trade PG Jerryd Bayless to Hornets for conditional first round pick
-Blazers sign C Fabricio Oberto to 1-year deal, league minimum
-Blazers sign SG Wesley Matthews to 5-year, $33.4 million deal
-Blazers C Joel Przybilla picks up player option for final year of his contract
-Blazers waive F Ryan Gomes
-Blazers acquire F Ryan Gomes and SF Luke Babbitt (16th pick) from Timberwolves for SF Martell Webster
Off-Season Grade: C+
As a Marquette graduate, I was absolutely thrilled when Wesley Matthews inked his deal with the Blazers. At the same time though, I was floored that Portland would throw that kind of money at him especially when they already had three guys who played the same position as Matthews. The former Golden Eagle will be a tremendous role player but was probably not worth that much money.
The other deals were minute in terms of their impact on the roster. The Blazers pretty much dealt Martell Webster for salary dump purposes as Gomes’ deal was not guaranteed for this season. I like the Jerryd Bayless trade especially since Portland has a ton of depth at guard. Fabricio Oberto provides an experienced, savvy veteran who is an insurance policy for the injured Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla.
A few years ago, the Jail Blazers were a laughing stock of the NBA. After taking a new direction with the roster, Portland has once again turned the franchise into a serious threat in the Western Conference winning at least fifty games in each of the last two seasons. Portland has been unable to get over the hump of winning a playoff series though.
Brandon Roy has become a star and one of the better two guards in the league in just four years. His ability to play off the ball or act as the point guard makes him a dangerous weapon. Portland finally put a veteran point guard alongside Roy last season in Andre Miller who was solid but not spectacular.
There is a lot of depth at the guard spot with the addition of Matthews who is valuable because of his toughness on defense and ability to knock down open shots. Rudy Fernandez was reportedly an unhappy camper this summer and wanted to be traded. If the Blazers can keep him happy, he is extremely effective because of his versatility and ability to play the one, two, or three. Armon Johnson, Elliot Williams, and Patrick Mills are young and inexperienced and should not be significant contributors.
Nicolas Batum seems to be poised for a breakout year. There was a rumor before the NBA Draft that Minnesota offered Portland the fourth overall pick for Batum and the Blazers said, “No thanks.” If that report was indeed true then it says just how highly the franchise thinks of their young small forward.
The ageless wonder Marcus Camby and LeMarcus Aldridge will man the frontcourt but depth up-front is an area of concern early in the season as Oden and Prybilla will miss a good chunk of time as they recover from injury. Oberto was signed late in the pre-season when Jeff Pendergraph went down with a season ending injury. Under-sized Dante Cunningham now becomes the back-up power forward and will be a liability against bigger, stronger NBA fours. Portland will likely also use a smaller line-up early on with Batum moving to the four.
Simply making the post-season will not be good enough anymore for this franchise. However, I am not sure they have done anything to establish themselves as a team that can make some noise in the Western Conference playoffs.
Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
Portland has a couple important decisions to make. Oden will be a restricted free agent and has a qualifying offer worth almost $8.8 million. That is a lot of money to pay someone who just cannot stay healthy. Since there is a new front office regime, management may be open to just parting ways with the former number one overall pick and let him become somebody else’s issue. Of course if Oden comes back healthy and proves to be a valuable low post presence, he could just as easily return for another season.
The other decision is regarding Miller who has a team option on the final year of his contract worth $7.8 million. That is a pretty reasonable price for a starting point guard in the NBA and it would seem more likely that he would return since the Blazers dealt Bayless. Przybilla’s contract also comes off the books which will free up about $7.4 million in cap space.
NBA Power Ranking: 9th
Other NBA season previews/power rankings:
#2 Miami Heat
#3 Boston Celtics
#4 Orlando Magic
#10 Milwaukee Bucks
#11 Atlanta Hawks
#12 Houston Rockets
#13 Utah Jazz
#14 Denver Nuggets
#15 Phoenix Suns
#16 Charlotte Bobcats
#17 New Orleans Hornets
#18 Memphis Grizzlies
#19 Philadelphia 76ers
#20 New York Knicks
#21 Los Angeles Clippers
#22 Indiana Pacers
#23 Golden State Warriors
#24 Washington Wizards
#25 Detroit Pistons
#26 New Jersey Nets
#27 Sacramento Kings
#28 Cleveland Cavaliers
#29 Toronto Raptors
#30 Minnesota Timberwolves
Check out David’s Fantasy Basketball RankingsFollow paulmbanks