The Portland Trail Blazers Need a Few Young Men
The Blazers’ lack of a bench killed them all season in 2012-2013. Yes, PG Damian Lillard was a great find out of Weber State, dazzling fans at both the Rose Garden and on the road alike. Lillard even won the Rookie of the Year award. However, there was little else to be excited about in Portland. Injuries ravaged the team from the onset of the season, and matters only escalated as the season progressed. The Blazers finished 33-49 on the season largely due to the aforementioned injuries and lack of depth.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a fine piece at power forward, but there is the feeling that he has already plateaued talent-wise. He is eerily reminiscent of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who played on a perennial also-ran team that never quite did anything of any value. That is not to say that Portland’s struggles are due to any deficiencies in Aldridge’s game, but he will need more than Lillard and spot up shooting from Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews to get over the hump. Both Matthews and Batum are athletic, rangy, decent-shooting (Batum is actually an excellent 3-point shooter) small forward/shooting guard combination players. The problem with Portland’s talent dispersal is that there is a glut at the small forward position. JJ Hickson plays like a power forward, but he doesn’t serve that purpose well, with Aldridge’s style of game. Hickson almost plays a pseudo-center role, and at 6’8”, he cannot consistently provide the kind of presence on both ends that a center must provide. The Blazers are high on Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard, but they were in their initial forays of NBA play last season. Leonard has more upside, but the Blazers are going to need more than upside if they are going to take the next step of leaping out of the 30-45 win purgatory that they have found themselves mired in over the past few seasons. While they have made the playoffs at times, they were never serious threats to advance beyond the 1st round when they were able to enter the playoffs.
Lillard, Matthews, Maynor (as a backup) and Will Barton – who the Blazers see as their future alongside Lillard – form a nice backcourt. Will Matthews, Batum, Luke Babbitt, Aldridge and Leonard be enough up front? The Blazers have made it clear that they intend to promulgate Hickson, and will need to get a solid piece and a pick (if possible) in order to bolster the roster. With the 10th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Blazers will have to make the pick count. It is an iffy selection with many players who have several glaring question marks. Portland must get it right if they are going to get out of the land of NBA purgatory.
” It Is Only A Game, Until You Bet It “