Rip City fell short to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs, but already they are taking strides to improve their team for next season. The Trail Blazers are planning to do some minor roster reconstruction, workout a select few draft prospects, and make some important decisions regarding their players. The General Manager, Rich Cho, has already been fired; what other moves does Portland have on their agenda?
After just about one season, the Portland Trail Blazers decided to part ways with their General Manager, RIch Cho.
"The fit between Rich and our team simply wasn't right," said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller in a team press release. "This was a tough move because I respect Rich and he's a good person with many strong skills. But it simply wasn't a good match."
Cho made some comments about wanting to suspend Brandon Roy for speaking to the media about his lack of playing time in games 1 and 2 against the Dallas Mavericks. Weeks later, he was fired by the Portland front office. Could Roy have had something to do with it? Probably.
You never cross the highest-paid all-star on your team. Cho learned his lesson the hard way.
Offensive Final Grade: C+
Defensive Final Grade: D+
Cumulative Final Grade: C
Patty Mills has been the subject of much scrutiny this season. He's been one of Portland's least productive players, but he hasn't necessarily gotten the playing time to prove otherwise. He's proven to be able to knock down the three and the mid-range jumper, but he's also been very inconsistent with his game. Mills' defense is sub par at best, as Chris Paul absolutely scorched him in the last game of the regular season.
Mills minutes were constantly reduced from those of a role player to those of a bench warmer. However, despite all obstacles he continued to push his team forward from the sidelines. He would wait for the very last guy to leave the locker room before he did. Mills was a true team player, and though he may not have produced on the court, he's a quality guy and possesses the character of a player that every team needs.
His point guard skills definitely need some developing, but it would make for an incredible success story should Portland take another chance on him.
As part of their pre-draft process, Portland has broken up their 32 draft prospects into groups of six. The main group includes the athletic talent, Kenneth Faried, out of Morehead State; Matthew Bryan-Amaning out of Washington; Jon Diebler, the sharpshooter from Ohio State; Austin Freeman, the scorer out of Georgetown; Corey Fisher, aka Mr. 105 Points; and Isaiah Thomas, the point guard from Washington. Also in the discussion is Kyle Singler, an Oregon Native.
Offensive Final Grade:B
Defensive Final Grade:B
Cumulative Final Grade:B
Andre Miller, no matter how old he gets, will always find a way to get the job done. He's not fast, nor is he quick on his feet, but he's a strong guard who knows how to use his body. Miller is one of the smartest point guards in the NBA. He knows when to post up a smaller guard and when to settle for the foul line jumper.
Though his range is SEVERELY limited—Miller shot a miserable 10.8 percent from three this season—he finds a way to score 12.7 points per game. He's more of a floor general in the way he sets up his teammates for easy buckets. His defense is extremely underrated, too. He might not be able to guard faster guards like Derrick Rose or Chris Paul, but he plays smart basketball and uses his body to affect his man's shot. Miller, however, is 35 years old. It's time for Portland to find a replacement.
A guy that's not even on the draft board, Matthew Bryan-Amaning was critical to Washington's success last season. Second on the team in scoring and the leader in both rebounds and steals, Amaning averaged 15.3 points, eight rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. At 6'9, Amaning is mainly an inside scorer getting most of his points off of poster dunks and offensive rebounds. He does, however, run the court very well and he uses his athleticism to play defense.
Portland has the 21st pick in both rounds. Could Matthew Bryan-Amaning be a sleeper?
Offensive Final Grade: D+
Defensive Final Grade: B
Cumulative Final Grade: C-
Rudy Fernandez has been, by far, the most disappointing player on this Rip City squad. Simply put, he's "a shooter who can't shoot." He played just over 23 minutes per game in the regular season and only managed to put up 8.6 points each night. He also shot an abysmal 32 percent from three, which dropped to 30 percent in the playoffs. His production just wasn't adequate enough, and Fernandez floundered in the Playoffs even more, where he shot 22 percent from the field.
Defense, however, is the most underrated facet of his game. "He's a pest," said Brandon Roy to John Canzano in an interview. Fernandez is very active with his hands and has excellent footwork. He changes direction quickly and he can anticipate his man's next move. Unfortunately, it's his play on the other side of the ball that's going to get him ousted from Portland.
Another player on Portland's draft board is the sharpshooter out of Ohio State, Jon Diebler. Diebler shot an unconscious 50.2 percent from deep, ranking him number four in the NCAA. Aside from his shooting, Diebler isn't effective in many other parts of the court. He's an okay playmaker and a decent defender, but his game is very single-faceted.
It seems as though Portland could use a knock down shooter though. Could Jon Diebler be their second round pick?
Offensive Final Grade: B
Defensive Final Grade: A-
Cumulative Final Grade:B+
Nicolas Batum's three-point percentage may have fallen a bit from his previous seasons, but he's been a great talent for the Portland Trail Blazers. Rip City's Sixth Man, Batum brings athleticism, range, and staunch defense to the floor when his number is called. He may have only averaged 12.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the regular season, but there's no questioning how valuable he is to the team. As soon as he finds his sweet spot from behind the arc again, he'll be even more beneficial to Portland's championship run.
*Batum was on the receiving end of a game-winning inbound alley-oop thrown from Andre Miller to give Portland a two-point victory over San Antonio late in the regular season. His contributions to the team are invaluable.
At 6'3, Austin Freeman might lack a bit of size, but he sure knows how to put the ball in the bucket. Freeman led the Hoyas in scoring at 17.6 points per game. He would make for a great combo guard, but his playmaking and passing skills aren't there just yet.
Freeman's a stocky player that uses his build to bully his way to the hole. He's quick for his size and can knock down the three ball if you leave him open. He, too, hasn't gotten much attention in the draft world, but he could be a sleeper pick for any team.
Offensive Final Grade: A-
Defensive Final Grade: B+
Cumulative Final Grade: A-
Wes Matthews has been one of the most consistent players with Portland this season. Filling in for the injured Brandon Roy, Matthews averaged 15.9 points per game and led the team in three-point shooting at 40.7 percent from downtown. With a plethora of moves, Matthews learned to beat his defenders both off the dribble and by a catch and shoot. Portland definitely would not have made the Playoffs had the front office not gone out and grabbed him last offseason.
Matthews is another player whose defensive capabilities are far underrated. Matthews guarded some of the best players in the NBA, including Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, and Manu Ginobili. He didn't necessarily lock them up, but he did put an active body on them, chasing them around the court and throwing off their shots. Wes Matthews will be a part of this team for years to come.
The man who scored 105 points in a single game, Corey Fisher, is on the Trail Blazers' radar. The 6'1 point guard out of Villanova led the team averaging 15.6 points, 4.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game with a 2.12 assist/turnover ratio. The Blazers need a quick point guard who can attack the basket and knock down the three ball at an efficient rate (anything better than Andre Miller's 10.8 percent from deep would be nice). Maybe Fisher could be a breath of fresh air.
Offensive Final Grade: B
Defensive Final Grade: A
Cumulative Final Grade: B+
For Marcus Camby to be 37 years old and still playing at a high level is incredible. At almost 40 years old, Camby is grabbing 10.3 rebounds, averaging 1.6 blocks, and 4.7 points all in just over 25 minutes each night. If that's not a true center, I don't know what is.
Portland needs to draft a young center for Camby to bestow some knowledge upon. If he can turn Portland's next young center into a baby Marcus Camby, Rip City could have a championship relatively soon.
In my opinion, Isaiah Thomas is the perfect point guard prospect for the Portland Trail Blazers. He might be standing tall at all of five feet and nine inches, but Thomas is a great scoring distributor (if that's possible). At Washington, Thomas averaged 16.8 points, six assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. He did average three turnovers a game, but a little NBA preparation and guidance from Andre Miller will help him clean that up quickly.
Thomas is a taller, smarter Nate Robinson. He can leap with the best of them and score like none other. He can take you off the dribble or pull up in your face. A scoring point guard off the bench could go a long way for Portland. Anything is an upgrade from Patty Mills at this point.
Offensive Final Grade: A-
Defensive Final Grade: A+
Cumulative Final Grade: A
Gerald Wallace was essentially a Godsend. The Blazers gave up Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham and a first round draft pick for him, and he's proven to be worth far more than expected. As a Blazer, Crash filled up the stat sheet night-in and night-out. Wallace averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, two steals, and just under one block each night. He also shot 49.8 percent from the field and 33 percent from deep; the second highest three-point percentage in his career.
Now that we've gotten the stats out of the way, Gerald Wallace is a monster. He lives above the rim, earning his nickname by crashing into opponents to grab his rebounds and score his points. The idea of him hitting his three pointers is a nightmare for opposing teams and he shoots 76 percent from the foul line; not flashy numbers, but it's getting the job done.
Wallace is a defensive stopper, using he athleticism to change opponents shots. He locks defenders up on the perimeter and begins the fast break with ferocious blocks on the inside. He's a valuable asset and Portland must hang onto him for future championship runs.
Kenneth Faried ranks at No. 2 on the Portland Trail Blazers' draft board. They wanted to draft him last year, but he pulled his name out to stay at Morehead State one more year.
Faried was incredible last season. He averaged a mind-boggling 17.6 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.9 steals per game. Using his unparalleled athleticism, Faried was able to grab rebounds, score, and block shots with his leaping ability. He's a player that Rip City needs to draft without hesitation. He could come off the bench behind LaMarcus Aldridge, or play alongside him. At 6'8, putting Faried in at small forward would enable Portland to go big and play ball with the top tier teams like Los Angeles and Boston.
I can't wait for his name to be called as the 21st pick of the 2011 Draft.
Offensive Final Grade: A+
Defensive Final Grade: A-
Cumulative Final Grade: A+
The heart and soul of the Trail Blazers this season, LaMarcus Aldridge put the team on his back and literally carried them to the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Aldridge averaged a career-high 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, another career-high 1.2 blocks, and one steal per game. He shot a career-high 79 percent from the charity stripe and 50 percent from the field. Aldridge also averaged 20.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals in the Playoffs.
L.A. was named to the All-NBA Third Team and was an All Star snub, losing his well-deserved place to Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin, the Most Improved Player, Kevin Love, and Tim Duncan, the old Pro. Aldridge also came in second place for Most Improved Player, and was in the latter half of the MVP discussions. In Brandon Roy's absence, Aldridge stepped up and became the leader of this squad.
Both on and off the floor, L.A. is the new franchise player for Portland. It's time we find him a suitable nickname.
Say for example, the Portland Trail Blazers hired you as their new General Manager, and the first thing on their agenda is deciding whether or not to take a risk on Greg Oden. It's your jobs to look at the pros and cons and make a decision, right?
Pros: Greg Oden IS the missing link to the Portland Trail Blazers. A defensive stopper and dominant inside presence, Oden instills fear into all slashers on the opposing team. He may contribute four or five hard fouls each game, but Oden is definitely a piece to the crazy puzzle that is the Portland Trail Blazers. When he's healthy, he plays incredible.
Cons: Greg Oden has played about 82 games in the past four seasons. It's been injury after injury with him and you're not sure whether doling out money for him is a risk you are willing to take. He's the most injury prone player in the NBA by far, and you could put his $6.7 million contract towards a healthier center. But if you let him go now, and he gets signed to another team where he'll begin to put up 15 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks each night, it's your head on the line.
This is one of the biggest decisions the Portland Trail Blazers have had to face in awhile. You be the GM. What would you do?
Offensive Final Grade: B
Defensive Final Grade: C+
Cumulative Final Grade: B-
Brandon Roy's production was severely limited due to his dual arthroscopic knee injury, but we saw shades of the past towards the end of the regular season and in the Portland-Dallas series. He was very inconsistent, but he did rally his team from down almost 20 in the fourth quarter against Dallas in Game 4. He also had a 21 point game in March in a win, ironically, over the Dallas Mavericks, but his season averages were at the lowest of his entire career with 12.2 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.6 rebounds.
Aside from his offense, Roy's knee injury also affected his mobility on defense, making him a liability on the other side of the ball. There are new rumors about his knee injury not being as serious as once thought and that a comeback may indeed be on the verge. Let's just hope Portland doesn't do anything stupid before then, like ask him to retire.
According to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune, the Portland Trail Blazers are extremely interested in Kemba Walker. So interested that they are willing to trade their pick and some players in order to obtain a top seven draft pick.
Could you imagine what a player like Kemba Walker could to for the Blazers' franchise? He would instantly build their fan base and add offensive firepower to their lineup. Think about Kemba Walker, a healthy Brandon Roy or Wesley Matthews, Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, and a finally healthy Greg Oden on the floor. What team could beat that?!
Some trades could include:
Rudy Fernandez, #21 overall pick, Andre Miller, and Nicolas Batum to Washington for the #6 overall pick.
Andre Miller, #21 overall pick, and Brandon Roy to Cleveland for the #4 overall pick.
Nicolas Batum, Patty Mills, Rudy Fernandez, #21 overall pick, and Brandon Roy to the Toronto Raptors for their #5 overall pick.
Either way, I'm not a trade guru, nor am I the GM of the Blazers, but if they found a way to make the trade work, it would bring a new buzz to the city of Portland.