The Beginning of a Dynasty:
Immediately following the 2007 season, in which Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge made their impressive debuts, the Portland Trail Blazers won the draft lottery against the odds. Although there was some speculation about scoring machine Kevin Durant, the Patrick Ewing-esque Greg Oden was selected, to nobody's surprise.
Portland gave Oden a huge welcome, holding rallies and even writing songs about him. The city was about to be on the NBA map again after several years of being the "Jail Blazers."
With Roy leading the team in scoring and assists, Oden came in primarily as a defensive force and led the team in blocks, rebounds, field goal percentage, and dunks. The big guy also produced a fair amount of points from posting up and second chance baskets. As a rookie adjusting to the NBA game, his minutes were somewhat limited because of foul trouble and stamina. Aldridge rose to become Portland's second option, providing reliable points for the Blazers.
The young trio, backed by role players like Steve Blake, Jarret Jack, James Jones, Travis Outlaw, Joel Przybilla, and Martell Webster, made a surprising re-entrance into the playoffs. They gave the eventual champion LA Lakers all they could handle before falling in game seven.
Oden finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to high volume scorer Durant. Roy was named an NBA All-Star for the first time, as well as earning a spot in the All-NBA third team. Aldridge, Roy, and Oden were all invited to the NBA rookie challenge.
The Young Team Grows:
The young team continued to improve the next season. Another key piece to the franchise, Nicolas Batum, was drafted and surprised as a difference making rookie. With Oden playing more minutes and chemistry continuing to improve, Portland improved their record again, and made it to the second round of the playoffs. Their lack of depth and experience showed, though, as they made a quick second round exit.
During the offseason, huge changes were made to the supporting cast to bring in some more veterans and reliable role players. Using cap space, draft picks, and some shrewd trades, Rip City acquired much needed depth and experience. Kirk Hinrich and Marcus Camby were added in trades. Another busy draft day yielded rookies Darren Collison, Dante Cunningham, Wesley Matthews, and Patty Mills. Veterans Juwan Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, and Ime Udoka were happy to join a winning team and gave the team the additional depth and experience they needed. Along with the core four of Roy, Oden, Aldridge and Batum, Webster and Przybilla made their returns.
2010: The Year They Make the Leap
The team, despite the huge changes that were made, quickly gelled. The veterans eagerly accepted their reduced roles to help the team, while the young players continued to grow, and in some cases, surprise.
After spending the summer playing internationally, Batum become the perfect fifth starter, knocking down open threes and fastbreak dunks and playing sterling defense. Playing off the big three, Hinrich was among the league leaders in three point and free throw percentage. Camby and Przybilla both came in as excellent defenders and helped give Portland what was easily the best big man rotation in the league.
Matthews and Collison surprised many by coming in as solid backups. Webster continued to show a great attitude by working hard and embracing his reduced role.
Oden continued to improve into the dominant big man he was expected to be, joining Aldridge in making his first trip to the All-Star game, as well as making the All-NBA third team and defensive first team. Roy made his third straight All-Star game and made the first team.
While the big three, combined with very good supporters, made the offense good, Portland's defense was even more special.
If the opposing team was lucky enough to get past the slew of good perimeter defenders (Batum, Hinrich, Matthews, Webster, etc.), they still had to get past the even better interior defense (Oden, Camby, Aldridge, Przybilla).
The team lived up to the hopes and expectations the rabid fan base had set for them. The Rose Garden became the most difficult place to play for opposing teams. Portland broke the team record for wins in a season and finished well in first place.
After sweeping Durant and the Thunder (winning by an average of nineteen points), Portland proceeded to take out Dallas in the second round in five. Facing their nemesis LA Lakers, Portland won 4-3, sparked by late game heroics in game five by Roy.
They faced the Boston Celtics in the Finals. After scaring their fans by dropping game one, Portland came back to win the sixth game in front of thousands of screaming fans. After decades, the championship trophy came back to Portland.
A combination of talent, sacrifice, hard work, veteran leadership, teamwork, and patience had paid off.
The Aftermath and Later Years:
After their success in rebuilding a successful team, Portland became the model franchise. In the summer of 2010, many teams added stars and more pieces to try and compete with the big three and supporting cast that Portland brought.
Oden, Aldridge, Roy, and Batum had their contracts extended quickly, while the supporting cast remained mostly the same but had some minor tweaks.
Portland went on to hang several more championship banners in the rafters of the Rose Garden. Roy became a two-time MVP winner. Oden won the Defensive Player of the Year award three times and was a perennial All-Defensive Teamer. The big three all received several All-Star invites and All-NBA selections. Batum made the All-Star team once and the defensive team multiple times. After being inserted into the starting lineup in his third season, Collison was the runner up as the Most Improved and became one of the top assisters in the game.
Many years later, Portland went on to retire eight players' numbers from the '10 championship team. The big three of Oden, Roy, and Aldridge were named to the Hall of Fame after their careers ended.
(Based on a true story. The real Portland Trail Blazers' potential dynasty was derailed by injuries, bad luck, and poor decisions, and have a long way to go.)