2009-2010 Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview
By Ryno of Predictem.com
Last Season’s Record: 54-28
Head Coach: Nate McMillan
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Andre Miller 6-2
SG: Brandon Roy 6-6
SF: Travis Outlaw 6-9
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge 6-11
C: Greg Oden 7-0
Key Reserves: Martell Webster 6-7 SF, Nicolas Batum 6-8 SF, Rudy Fernandez 6-6 SG, Steve Blake 6-3 PG, Jerryd Bayless 6-3 PG, Juwan Howard 6-9 PF, Joel Przybilla 7-1 C, Ime Udoka 6-6 SF
Current 2010 NBA Championship Odds: 20-1 at Bodog.
The Portland Trail Blazers have perhaps the best young talent in the NBA. Brandon Roy is an emerging superstar. He led the team last season with 22.6 points per game and was considered an MVP candidate early in the season. Along with Roy, the Blazers have other young players like Greg Oden, Martell Webster, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless. But the one position the Blazers weren’t strong at the last couple years was point guard. Steve Blake was a decent floor leader, but not ideal to lead them to an NBA Championship. Now that the Blazers have signed Andre Miller to run the point, they are fully equipped to prove this year that they belong in the upper echelon of the NBA. Last season, the Blazers finished tied for the division title with the Spurs, but the Spurs won the tiebreaker and received a top three seed. Instead, the Blazers got the No. 4 seed and fell to the Rockets in the first round.
Who’s In/Who’s Out
The Blazers haven’t lost any of their top eight scorers from last season. They only added to their already talented roster by acquiring Andre Miller, Juwan Howard and Ime Udoka. Miller was the biggest acquisition because he gives the Blazers that quality point guard they were lacking. Miller is a veteran floor leader who is as good at running an offense as anyone in the league. He isn’t a very good outside shooter, but he can still take on the scoring load when he has to. Howard gives the Blazers some depth down low. Miller and Howard add some experience and leadership to a young team. Udoka is a long, versatile forward who can score inside or outside. He adds more on defense, but with so many wings on this team, it’s unknown where he will fit in. The Blazers drafted Dante Cunningham, Jeff Pendergraph and Patrick Mills. It’s unlikely that any of the three will get much playing time this season, especially Mills, who tore his ACL in the first summer league game.
The backcourt starts with Roy, one of the up-and-coming young stars in this league. Roy is just a pure basketball player. He can take over a game in a variety of ways, whether it’s shooting, taking the ball to the basket, or finding open teammates. Having Miller alongside him in the backcourt will be a huge bonus. Miller is a veteran point guard who could be the difference for the Blazers to get over the hump and become an elite team in the NBA. Blake could still end up as the starter over Miller, but either way both players will get a lot of playing time. Blake lacks strength, but he is a solid point guard and he can hit outside shots. Bayless is a young scoring point guard who hasn’t had the opportunity yet to prove himself, but if he does get some time he has the potential to be a very good NBA player. One of the key players in the Blazers’ success last season was Fernandez, an experienced player in Europe who came over to the NBA as a rookie last season. Fernandez has terrific athleticism – he participated in the Slam Dunk Contest – and an excellent 3-point shot. The Blazers could start Fernandez and slide Roy over to small forward.
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Oden was supposed to be the next star center in this league, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career thus far. If Oden can stay healthy, the 7-footer has the potential to be a very good big man. But that’s a very big “if.” LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid power forward with the ability to bang inside or hit mid-range jumpers. Howard was brought in to give the Blazers some depth in the frontcourt and some veteran leadership. Joel Przybilla is another veteran big man who will back up Oden at center. The Blazers have a bunch of small forwards to choose from. It will be a tough task making sure all of them get some playing time. Travis Outlaw, Nicolas Batum, Martell Webster and Ime Udoka all are good enough to start. Batum and Udoka give them the best defensive presence, while Outlaw gives them length and athleticism and Webster gives them the best outside shooter of the four players.
The Blazers have terrific depth in the backcourt and at small forward. There are a lot of capable guards and wings on this team. Finding scoring at those positions will not be a problem at all. Roy, Fernandez, Webster, Outlaw and Miller can all take over games on offense. This team can score a lot of points. Having won 54 games last season is also a strength. The Blazers now know that they can be a top-tier team.
This team isn’t terrific down low. If Oden stays healthy and pans out to be a legitimate center, that assessment will change. But as of now, Oden, Aldridge and Outlaw (or whoever else may start at small forward) form an above average frontcourt at best. There isn’t a lot of depth down low, either. If Oden gets hurt, it’s down to Aldridge, Przybilla and Howard.
Betting Odds and Projections
The Blazers are listed on Bodog as 20-1 favorites to win the 2010 NBA Championship. If you’re looking for a sleeper team that could surprise people and win the title, the Blazers are a good gamble. But at 20-1, the Blazers are in between the legitimate championship contenders and the teams with great value. There is no reason the Blazers shouldn’t be one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season. They have a great chance at winning their division and earning a top three seed in the playoffs. After all, they won 54 games last season, and they’ve added a veteran point guard and even more depth.