With the 2008 NBA Draft having passed, it comes time to assess each team's draft picks, analyze each team, and predict how each team will fare in the 2008-09 regular season. This week, I come to analyze the NBA Northwest Division, starting with my favorite team: The Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers have made three NBA Finals apperances in their 37 year history as a NBA Franchise. Their first, in 1977, ended with the Blazers winning their only NBA Championship. The Blazers barely qualified for the playoffs, with a regular season record of 49-33, the franchise's first winning record. Bill Walton, the first pick in the 1974 NBA draft, led the Blazers through the playoffs and won the 1977 NBA Finals MVP award.
The Blazers' other two appearances, 1990 (lost to the Pistons), and 1992 (lost to the Bulls), were because of Portland's only Olympic basketball player, Clyde "The Glide" Drexler, whom the Blazers selected with the 13th pick in the 1983 NBA Draft.
Now to the point where I analyze the current team. Since the "Jail Blazers" era, the best thing to happen to the Blazers is their General Manager, Kevin Pritchard. In 2005, when Pritchard was Director of Player Personnel, he pushed then GM John Nash to draft current New Orleans Hornets Point Guard, Chris Paul. Instead, the Blazers traded down to draft Martell Webster, out of Seattle Prep High School. Webster has started to blossom into a superb player. Even though it would have been very nice to land Chris Paul, all Blazer fans know that if it had happened, Portland would not have landed Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez, or Jerryd Bayless. We'll take the more good, over the bad.
In the summer of 2007, Kevin Pritchard was promoted from Director of Player Personnel, to General Manager; this after making six draft day trades in the 2006 NBA Draft, to land 2006-07 Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, Texas power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Spaniard point guard Sergio Rodriguez. The Blazers traded the rights to LSU PF Tyrus Thomas, and SF Viktor Kryapa to the Bulls for Aldridge, and were involved in a three team deal involving players Randy Foye, Rudy Gay, and Sebastian Telfair, in order to land Roy.
In the 2007 NBA Draft, the Blazers won the draft lottery, and selected Ohio State Freshman Center, Greg Oden. The Blazers also aquired James Jones and the draft rights to the Spaniard Rudy Fernández, for cash considerations. Even though Oden missed the entire 2007-08 season due to microfracture knee surgery, the Blazers finished the season with a 41-41 record, the franchise's best since 2003.
This draft, the Blazers were, again, busy on draft day, trading the rights of their 13th pick, Kansas guard Brandon Rush, and point guard Jarret Jack, to the Indiana Pacers, for the rights to their 11th pick, Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless, and power forward Ike Diogu. They also traded for the rights to the 25th pick Nicolas Batum, a French small forward.
The Portland Trail Blazers have the youngest team in the NBA; the average age on their roster is 23.6 years old. This roster also is touted as the most talented. Veterans such as Steve Blake, Raef LaFrentz, and Joel Pryzbilla provide the team with experience, advice, and stability. The amount of young talent on this roster is astounding. Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernández, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Greg Oden, Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum, are the youngest on the team.
Greg Oden is healthy again, and should be more than ready to play by the start of the season. Rudy Fernández comes to the team after his run with the Spanish Olympic Team. Brandon Roy is staying in shape this offseason with his daily 10 mile bike rides. LaMarcus Aldridge is always practicing; he is the epitomy of a gym rat. Jerryd Bayless won the NBA Summer League MVP. Travis Outlaw is settling into his permanent role as a small forward.
Taking a look at the projected starting lineup, both the starters and bench players provide sparks and flash when they are on the court:
PG: Steve Blake
SG: Brandon Roy
SF: Martell Webster
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Greg Oden
Bench Lineup No. 1:
PG: Jerryd Bayless
SG: Rudy Fernández
SF: Travis Outlaw
PF: Channing Frye
C: Joel Pryzbilla
PG: Sergio Rodriguez
SF: Nicolas Batum
PF: Ike Diogu
PF/C: Raef LaFrentz
With each unit with a combination of young talent, potential, experience, and leadership, this Blazers team looks like a very good one.
I believe the Blazers will definitely make the playoffs this year, and maybe even compete with the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz for the Northwest Division Championship.
Keep looking for my next post, in which I analyze the NBA's newest relocation team, the Oklahoma City Thunder!