The 2007-08 season for the Portland Trail Blazers was a resounding success. Despite losing number one overall pick, Greg Oden, the Blazers improved their win total by nine games, including a thirteen game winning streak.
However, as is a fact of life in professional sports, not all of the members of the 2007-08 Blazers will be back next year. The question then is, who stays and who goes?
SG Brandon Roy, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C Greg Oden
There is absolutely no question that these three players will be back for the 2008-09 campaign. This is the core and future of the team. It would take an unprecedented lopsided trade to pry any of these players from GM Kevin Pritchard's hands. (Ok maybe Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace did set some precedent for lopsided trades by moving Pau Gasol to the Lakers).
SF Travis Outlaw
Outlaw was a great surprise this season. Outlaw had always displayed outstanding talent, but team executives were perpetually waiting for him to put it all together. This was the season that he finally did. Playing most of the season as the team's sixth man, he averaged career highs in points, rebounds and assists. Outlaw should stay and be considered as an integral member of the Portland bench next year.
PG Jarret Jack, PG Steve Blake, PG Sergio Rodriguez
As of right now, the Blazers are carrying dead weight in the point guard position. Late in games, Roy usually takes over PG duties, making at least one of these players dead weight on the roster. The difficult decisiosn is deciding which two stay and who goes. Blake is obviously the best "pure" point guard. He looks to pass first and shoot second. Also, he is the best three point shooter of the three. Jack is the only of the three that can consistently get to the rim. This is an underrated aspect, as Brandon Roy is the only other guard that possesses this skill. Finally, Rodriguez is largely an unknown quantity. He has struggled to get out of coach Nate McMillian's dog house, but has displayed incredible passing skills.
I say Jack is the one who needs to go. With the way that the Blazers are being built, they do not need a point guard who looks to shoot first. Blake can then mentor Rodriguez, and help mold him into the point guard the Blazers envision him becoming.
SF Martell Webster
Webster has struggled to live up to expectations coming out of Seattle Prep High School. He did show signs of improvement this year. Webster has started to develop the ability to take somebody off the dribble, instead of simply shooting three pointers. I think it is too early to dismiss him, and he needs to stay.
SG Von Wafer
Go. Especially with Rudy Fernandez coming over.
PF Channing Frye, PF Josh McRoberts, C Joel Przybilla, PF Raef LaFrentz
These three guys make up the teams supply of big bodies off the bench. Przybilla and Frye have proven that they can be adequate starters when given the chance. McRoberts has not gotten much of a chance to showcase his talents. I believe because of Frye and Przybilla's ability to start, they are essential to keep on the roster as injuries are almost a given over the course of an 82 game season. Unfortunately for McRoberts, there probably will not be room for him on the roster next season. Unless they can stash him in the D-League, I believe he needs to go instead of occupying a precious roster spot. LaFrentz has a huge contract, and has to be considered a provisional stay. He needs to stay until the Blazers can either move him for a quality player, or until his contract expires and allows the team to make a splash in free agency.
SF James Jones
James needs to stay. He provided lights out three point shooting, and excellent leadership for a young team. Jones was a member of some very good Phoenix Suns teams that have made it deep in the playoffs. His experience is too valuable to this young team to be let go.
The Portland Trail Blazers will look to continue improving for the 2008-09 season. They got a taste of success in the middle of the season and faded late. With Greg Oden coming back, hopefully at full strength, this team will look to make a legitimate playoff push for next year.