Over the past couple of years, the Portland Trail Blazers have shed themselves of the " Jail Blazers" nickname and have become one of the young, exciting teams in the NBA.
The 2006 NBA Draft will go down as possibly the biggest draft in Blazers history. With the fourth overall pick, they selected Tyrus Thomas, who they ended up trading to Chicago for the second overall pick, LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers then swung a deal with Boston for Randy Foye, who they then traded to Minnesota for Brandon Roy. They later made a trade with Phoenix to acquire Spanish guard, Sergio Rodriguez.
With the 2006 draft, their core of young players was starting to grow.
And then came the 2007 NBA draft. The Blazers were only the sixth seed in the lottery and figured to be missing out on the Greg Oden and Kevin Durant sweepstakes. That was until Lady Luck worked her magic.
The Blazers won the first overall pick in the 2007 draft and selected super-prospect Greg Oden. They made another trade with Phoenix, in which the Blazers snagged yet another Spanish player, Rudy Fernandez.
We all know how Oden missed his first season due to injury, but now the Blazers are at full strength with even more added fire power. The Blazers traded their first round selection, Brandon Rush, to Indiana for their first rounder, point guard Jerryd Bayless.
The 2008-09 Portland Trail Blazer team looks primed to make a run at the playoffs. Many people think they are still a year or two away from being competitive, but with the experience that Roy and Aldridge already have, and if Oden is all that he's cracked up to be, watch out.
Roy, Aldridge, and Oden have all become household names, but there is much more to this Blazers squad. They may have the most talented bench in the league. With veteran Steve Blake looking to man the point at the beginning of the season, the Blazers will bring Bayless and Rodriguez off the bench at the point guard spot.
The Blazers also have a cluster of talent at the shooting guard and small forward positions. Roy is the obvious starter at the two spot and it looks as though the very athletic Travis Outlaw will start at the three. That means Spanish sensation Fernandez and youngster Martell Webster will come in as instant offense.
The big men are set with Aldridge and Oden being the starters. The Blazers also bring in immense talent off the bench with Channing Frye and Ike Diogu.
Their coach Nate McMillan has to be considered as one of the top coaches we have in the NBA. He has been able to keep his young team under control and play with veteran savvy, even though many are in their first three years in the league.
This year's Blazers team could easily make it into the playoffs as one of the bottom three teams but in years ahead, they could be making championship runs if their core is still in tact.
With the trifecta of Roy, Aldridge, and Oden all being 24 years old or younger, this will be a very dangerous team for a long time.