If the Blazers want to acquire a veteran point guard, the price has just gotten much, much higher.
This offseason, both Chris Paul, a point guard for the New Orleans Hornets, and Deron Williams, a point guard for the Utah Jazz, signed contract extensions to keep them with their respective teams.
This was pretty much the final nail in the coffin for Blazer fans, who have had high hopes of the Blazers landing one of these two MVP-quality point guards next offseason, when both players would have been unrestricted free agents.
Portland made a step in the right direction on draft day, though, trading the rights to their 13th pick, Brandon Rush, and backup power forward Josh McRoberts, to Indiana for the rights to 11th pick Jerryd Bayless and backup power forward Ike Diogu. Both Bayless and Diogu bring flash to an already loaded Blazers team, the youngest in the NBA.
With Jerryd Bayless being named the summer league MVP, Blazer fans have started to settle down again. But new questions have risen. Can Bayless, who played mainly shooting guard at Arizona, adapt to playing point guard in the NBA, and be the final piece to the puzzle Blazer fans have anxiously been waiting for?
While Bayless played shooting guard at Arizona, his original position was at the point—until coach Lute Olson took a leave of absence, and the interim head coach shook up in the lineup to help take the minds of the players off their departed coach.
Bayless proved to everyone in the summer league that he can score, averaging just under 30 ppg. His assist numbers were not so great, but there is an explanation.
Remember that summer league squads are composed of many different players, both drafted and not, all of whom are competing for a final roster spot. Bayless was playing with some players who, let's just say, were not quite as competent as the starting lineup for the Blazers.
Once Bayless is put on the court with Roy, Aldridge, Oden, and Outlaw/Webster, look out defenses—Bayless WILL find the open man, and make you look silly at the same time.
Here is my projected starting lineup:
- PG-Steve Blake
- SG-Brandon Roy
- SF-Travis Outlaw
- PF-LaMarcus Aldridge
- C-Greg Oden
It is quite possible though that Bayless could overtake Blake at the starting spot. Blake has already said that he would be fine with coming off the bench if it was best for the team—that's the kind of guy Blake is, the complete opposite of selfish.
With Jerryd Bayless at point guard, defenses could not key in on Roy, because of Bayless's knack for driving to the hoop and dishing it out to an open player once the defense collapses in.
This was a facet of the Blazers offense that was missing in many games last season, even during the 13-game winning streak. The Blazers played a mostly perimeter game last season, passing the ball around the outside and lobbing up a prayer as the shot clock expired.
Once Roy took the ball, though, and drove down the lane, the defense collapsed on him to stop the threat, and Roy simply dished the pass out to Martel Webster, or James Jones, for an easy assist and three points for the team.
This is what will make Bayless click with the offense. Because of his prolific scoring ability and drive-to-the-basket mentality, he will instantly contribute to the team, whether he is starting or coming off the bench.
So Pritchard, now that your strategy at acquiring Paul or Williams became so much harder, what are you going to do?
I suggest you don't do a single thing, because this Blazer team is more ready to lasso success and put it in their pockets than ever before.