Season Preview: Portland Trail Blazers

Team History:

The Blazers entered the NBA as an expansion team in 1970, which itself is not very interesting. However, seven years later, with the help of Bill Walton, the Blazers won their first and only championship in franchise history. Shortly after, however, Walton injured his foot and demanded a trade to the team of his choice. The Blazers refused and Walton held out the entire next season, leaving the team as a free agent shortly after.

In 1983, the Trail Blazers selected guard/forward Clyde “The Glide” Drexler with the 13th pick in the draft. Clyde went on to be one of the greatest players in NBA history, nearly notching two quadruple doubles (yeah, quadruple). However, their drafting success would cease the next year when they drafted the infamous Sam Bowie over some kid from North Carolina named Michael Jordan. It is widely considered the worst draft pick of all time, recently rivaled by the selection of Darko Milicic when he was drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.

The next significant moments in Blazers’ history were in the early 1990’s when they reached the finals twice. In 1990, led by Drexler, the Blazers reached the finals were they would go up against the defending champion Detroit Pistons led by Isiah Thomas. They would lose the series 4 games to 1 to the obviously superior Pistons. Then, in 1992, the Blazers would go up against the Chicago Bulls led by the greatest of all time Michael Jordan. In that series, the Blazers would again lose, this time by a 4-2 margin.

The Blazers history since then has been mostly known as the “Jail Blazer” era. This is of course in reference to the fact that the team was often comprised with players who found themselves on the wrong side of the law more often than expected. Players like Rasheed Wallace, Zach Randolph, Damon Stoudamire, Qyntel Woods, Bonzi Wells, Ruben Patterson, and Shawn Kemp each had their problems with the law while with the Blazers.

Recently, the Blazers have changed everything about their team. They got rid of the bad apples and started to build around solid players with apparently good intentions. Players like Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez, and LaMarcus Aldridge are stable players who have provided a solid foundation for the Blazers.

2008-09 Record 54-28 (2-4 in playoffs), 2nd place in Northwest Division, 4th place in Western Conference

Coach: Nate McMillan

Projected Lineup:

  • PG: Andre Miller – Andre is a solid player, but it doesn’t seem to be working out already, even before the season has started. He brings stable point guard play, even if it isn’t flashy. Can he and Brandon Roy coexist in the backcourt? I don’t know, but Steve Blake seems like a capable point guard himself.
  • SG: Brandon Roy – Roy has been named the Rookie of the Year and an All-Star multiple times. He is a basketball stud, a combo guard like Dwyane Wade who is just as capable of moving without the ball as with. He has become a top scorer in the league and the unquestioned leader of this Portland team.
  • SF: Nicolas Batum/Travis Outlaw – Batum, the Frenchman, hasn’t produced major numbers to this point of his very young career. He started 76 of 79 games, yet played fewer minutes than Outlaw, who at this point is more capable of putting the ball in the basket.
  • PF: LaMarcus Aldridge – This kid is good. There is a reason that the Blazers were comfortable letting Channing Frye walk to a rival Western Conference team. Aldridge averaged over 18 PPG last season while starting 81 games last year. He is young, athletic, and a terrific scorer. Aldridge is without question the second best player on the Blazers.
  • C: Greg Oden – Oden, despite seeming to have all the potential in the world, has been viewed as somewhat of a bust thus far. He has been compared unfavorably to Sam Bowie (see above) because of a couple of reasons. The first of which is his tendency to get hurt. The second is the man who he was drafted ahead of, Kevin Durant. Durant seems to be a lock for multiple scoring titles and possible MVP’s before his career is done. This may be Oden’s breakout year, or he may get hurt again and have a replica of last year’s season.

Key Gains:

  • Andre Miller – As stated above, Miller is a veteran point guard who brings a certain sense of sturdiness to the Blazers. However, it seems as if this is going to be a short lived experiment as Miller and the Blazers don’t seem to be meshing as well as some hoped.

Key Losses:

  • Channing Frye – Despite the fact that he had a solid beginning to his career, Frye was stuck behind Oden, Aldridge, and Raef LaFrentz on Portland’s roster. He seems poised for a breakout year with the Phoenix Suns after Portland let him walk into free agency.

Season Preview:

The Trail Blazers seem destined to only improve this season, with their young players maturing and their team gaining more cohesion with every game. Brandon Roy seems to be a lock to make the All Star team once again, likely averaging over 20 points once again and averaging very respectable numbers in all the other categories.

LaMarcus Aldridge has been nothing but spectacular to this point. His play at the power forward position is just as critical to the Blazers’ success as Roy’s play. If Oden can fulfill just a portion of his potential, the Blazers have a legitimate shot of advancing deep into the playoffs, even in the tightly contested Western Conference.

Can it really be that the major success of the Blazers relies entirely on Greg Oden and his feeble knees and feet? Unfortunately for Blazers’ fans, it seems entirely likely. Now that is not to say that if Oden doesn’t play a minute that the Blazers will flounder, because they wont. But, if they want to go deep into the playoffs they need Oden to play like the defensive machine that he can be.

Quote this:

“Last year was a start for us … We talked about our goal of getting to the playoffs and getting some experience. We were able to do that last year. And now it’s Phase II. We’ve been young for a while, we still are young, but that’s behind us. We want to win our division, that will be our goal; to get out of that first round and try to win the Western Conference.”

– Nate McMillan

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