The first playoff appearance in six years. A coach of the year candidate. An all-star earning second team All-NBA honors. The second youngest team in the Association.
Trail Blazer fans, we are sitting back with a slight grin when we think about the future.
A season that surpassed many experts projections leads many Portlanders to have high expectations for the Blazers in 09'-10', but we still have some questions to solve. The glaring question is directed directly at Kevin Pritchard.
What changes are going to be made to the roster?
Sergio Rodriguez appears to be gone. The futures of Travis Outlaw, Channing Frye, and possibly others are in question. The coaches must figure out the small forward position now that Martell Webster will be available.
It is obvious that Portland needs to improve at the point (See: Aaron Brooks). Steve Blake was the Blazers glue at points this season, yet he got burned in the playoffs. Jerryd Bayless must further develop if he plans to earn ample playing time.
They blew it last year when Chicago was looking to deal Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich, a quick perimeter defender and a proven player in the NBA, would fit nicely in Portland’s system.
KP also had opportunities to trade for superstars such as Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, or Gerald Wallace. It was smart to keep the nucleus at small forward as is, but something must be done this year.
Outlaw was dominant in stretches during the regular season, but he choked in the playoffs. Batum has the potential to be a Tayshaun Prince-like force, but he is too young. Webster has shown glimpses of success but he is recovering from injury.
What to do, what to do…
Webster has no trade value. Batum is seen as a building block. Outlaw has garnered a lot of interest from teams throughout the league. His ability to hit the step-back jumper and his clutch performances are appealing to many. Not to mention his witty interview skills (For extreme humor please go to 1:15 of video).
Simple solution: Get rid of Outlaw.
It is sad, but simple. Webster can fill Outlaw’s role and Batum can develop. Look for the fourth quarter lineup to include Roy, Blake, Fernandez, Aldridge, and Oden or Pryzbilla. This lineup allows Roy to facilitate the offense with consistent three point shooters and a defensive presence in the key.
None of the aforementioned players will be starting at small forward for the Blazers, leave it up to Batum. The kid is still developing. He has got tree branches for arms and his potential seems nearly unlimited.
Webster is still developing, yet the future lies with Batum.
With gaping needs, it will be interesting to see how KP and the gang decide to fill them. Outside of Blake Griffin and Ricky Rubio, the draft looks to lack major talent.
The Blazers are just so close, yet they have a lot to show if they plan to stand atop the Northwest Division and the Western Conference.
Please Kevin and Nate, further develop the young talent on the roster!
I am rising with the Blazers, but Rip City will not see a full up rise until a banner hangs from the rafters in the Rose Garden.