Portland Trail Blazers: Rip City Will Be Championship Contenders Next Season

Kristian WinfieldCorrespondent IIIJuly 7, 2011

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 21:  LaMarcus Aldridge #12, Gerald Wallace #3, Nicolas Batum #88 and Marcus Camby #23 of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates their 97-92 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2011 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Disappointing.

The Portland Trail Blazers season could only be summed up by such a word after falling short to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Yet in the midst of the resentment left inside each and every player, the Blazers have fuel to drive them further than a six game postseason in the future.

Looking back, Portland played with a chip on their shoulder for the majority of the season. LaMarcus Aldridge essentially carried Rip City, becoming the leader both on and off the court while Brandon Roy underwent knee surgery. When Marcus Camby went down, Aldridge was the only legitimate big man left in the Blazer rotation. It was a folktale story without the dream ending.

Wesley Matthews stepped up in Roy's absence and played above and beyond all expectations. Crash Wallace came in at the trade deadline and made an immediate impact on both ends of the court. Andre Miller ran the offense, using his veteran wisdom to make the correct decisions, and the Portland Trail Blazers defied all odds and ended the regular season with the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

But anything short of a championship ring for these players is unacceptable.

The Blazers front office made a draft day decision to grab Raymond Felton from the Denver Nuggets, and they've added two new rookie guards in Nolan Smith and sharpshooter Jon Diebler. They've extended the oft-injured Greg Oden—a defense-first center who fills the team's biggest need—a qualifying offer and look to re-sign him during the summer. Brandon Roy and Elliott Williams should also be fully recovered by summer's end.

Portland's relinquished themselves of the incredibly inconsistent Rudy Fernandez and now has a roster stacked with talent, youth and athleticism.

With a floor general in Felton running the show, three dynamic scorers in Roy (if healthy), Wallace and Aldridge, and a stacked bench full of shooters, scorers and staunch defenders, the Portland Trail Blazers are on an express train heading straight for the NBA Finals.

If the team can overcome its biggest misfortune—untimely and lengthy injuries—they'll return to the Finals for the first time since their heartbreaking loss to Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls in 1992. However, this time, they will re-write the script.