Can Portland Survive without it's Franchise Player?
With the news of Greg Oden having to miss another season, it is becoming more and more likely that he will be let go when the season is up. He still shows signs of being a defensive minded player, but his string of tough luck injuries will probably cost him his career in Portland. There is another player in Portland, though, that may be getting forced out by injuries as well... Brandon Roy.
Knee Problems Aren't Going Away
Ever since his miraculous return during last year's playoffs, Roy has been struggling with an injury to his left knee. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports is reporting that he will miss games with knee injuries that don't seem to be getting better. The injury is getting worse at such a rapid rate that management may look into lowering his minutes and resting him in between back-to-back games. Roy seems to have lost some of his speed and explosiveness that made him an All-Star and household name during the earlier part of his career.
If true, this would be a crushing blow to a team that has been flying well under the radar since their series with the Houston Rockets a few years back. Houston can definitely relate to Portland as Roy's situation is very similar to Yao Ming's current predicament. The difference is that Roy plays a position in which his speed and quickness are very much required, especially in today's go-go paced NBA.
How Did Things Get So Bad?
It is easy to look at the drafting of Greg Oden and suggest that it is the problem with how Portland is in playoff limbo right now. The truth, however, is that they never really had Oden to begin with. Things began to go south with the injury to Pryzbilla. That is when a string of poor moves turned a "great" problem to have in Portland into what they have at this moment. What was the great problem they had?
Too much talent.
Look at that statement again. The Blazers of a year ago had amazing depth at the wings and at the point guard position. After Joel went down however, they had to scramble to find help at center. With the trade of Blake and Outlaw to the Clippers happening they significantly reduced their depth. They no longer had a logjam at the one and three spot, but they began the chain of events that may have cost them a potential dynasty in Portland. This off season brought more bizarre moves. They moved both Martell Webster and Jerryd Bayless to different teams. These moves may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.
Bayless still has plenty of time to develop (which is why New Orleans gave up a first rounder who may be the heir to CP3)and Webster was a hard worker who was blossoming into one of the better defenders on their roster. This all came while two of the moves that should have been made, weren't. Instead of shipping Fernandez, who wanted to be moved, or Andre Miller, whose play style doesn't mesh with Roy, they made moves that cost them both chemistry and depth. This, of course, is to say nothing of the possibility of one of the better coaches in the league leaving. The only saving grace for Portland were acquiring Camby and Matthews, both moves which were question marks when they were made.
Is It Too Late To Right The Ship?
No, it isn't. Portland still have very good pieces in play. If Roy's knee issues go away or become manageable, everything else can still be salvaged. They have one of the better power forwards in the league in Aldridge and a very underrated point guard running the show. Camby can still send shots into the fifth row and Batum is arguably already a star with his play this season and during the FIBA tournament. Even if Roy does become limited, they still have enough talent to become a different type of team who can play through the post.
Is His Replacement Already in Place?
During the off season, I was perplexed when the Blazers spent a lot of money going after Matthews, as I'm sure many other fans were. If management were aware of his injuries, it begins to make sense. Matthews is a young player who plays the game the right way and has plenty of skills that give him a bright future in the league. He is a tenacious defender who would be the go-to guy on the wing were it not for Batum. He can bang with the bigger guards in the post and does not require the ball in his hands to be successful. Should Roy have to take a much more limited role this season and beyond, they have a very good replacement in Wesley Matthews to hang their hat on.
Things are about to get very interesting in Portland.