Portland Trailblazers 2012 Preview: Talented and Deep, But...

Grant KoenekeContributor ISeptember 9, 2011

New Team, Different Year?
New Team, Different Year?Steve Dykes/Getty Images

NBA lockout, NBA Draft and NBA lockout. Can we get something else please? 

NBA fans, especially the one-horse city of Portland Trailblazer fans, desperately need the lockout to end so we can get back to free agent signings, trades and more importantly, NBA Basketball. Off-shore leagues just don’t have the same effect. I've been begging for more team previews.

It is typical in the NBA offseason to have the rumor mill swirling. This season is worse because teams can’t actually do anything. Carl Landry just decided he would tell the Blazers through the media he was interested in them. That’s a first for me. Hey, if he wants to come to Portland, we would be happy to have him.

Since the NBA is a one-track broken record, I thought it would be good to give a preview of the Blazers for the 2011-2012 season.  Let’s start with the old.

The Blazers have a ton of pieces throughout the roster.  They've had those pieces for some time.  We've been saying the same thing for years about how the team is young, talented and deep.  This is the reason I have the ‘But’ in the title.  Of course, the ‘But’ is for HEALTH, the nemesis of all teams in the NBA.

LaMarcus Aldridge is where it all starts.  He is by far one of the top power forwards in the league.  He has an unstoppable jump shot that reminds me and everyone else of Rasheed Wallace and he comes without the attitude.  I don’t see anything changing this year.

Brandon Roy is going to be a question.  With one knee having no cartilage left and the other with just a tiny bit, there is no way to determine how much he can give the team.  When he is on the floor he is still a great talent.  If, big if, we can get 25 minutes a night then it will be a successful season in regards to Roy.

Marcus Camby has been a solid NBA player for so long I can’t remember what the uniforms looked like when he came into the league.  It will be the same thing as usual for Marcus, rebound and block shots.

Every Blazer fan said, “Thank God for Wesley Matthews!” last season when Roy announced the extent of his knee issues.  Matthews is a perfect replacement as the starting shooting guard with backup duties falling to Roy.  It pains me to see it because I would have like to have seen a one-two punch in the backcourt of Roy and Matthews, but we will probably never see that now.

Nicolas Batum is a fan favorite.  Injuries of late have plagued him.  The addition of Gerald Wallace has cut his minutes, but it is time for the French-born kid to step up and take his rightful place as the next star on the Blazers.

Patty Mills came on last year.  He is that spark plug you want coming off your bench.  I look for more growth and more minutes as the backup this season. 

Elliot Williams is an unknown.  There is talent there, but how much?  We will see this season.

Luke Babbitt has shown flashes of becoming the Mike Miller type of shooter, but he has been inconsistent.  He will need to step it up to stay on the active roster.

Finally, from the still around crew is Greg ‘I don’t want to be like Sam Bowie’ Oden.  So many times Oden has looked dominant when he has been on the floor healthy and there in is the issue.  Can he stay healthy?  Is he just too fragile?  Will he ever play a full season? 

The Blazers gave him a one year deal to find out.  Some team in the NBA will still pick him up if he doesn’t last the season, it just won’t be Portland.

Gerald Wallace has been a long time coming for the Blazers.  Three years of rumors finally came to fruition when Portland made that trade.  He looked pretty good, but not too comfortable during the last half of the season.  I look for him to be much better as he gets use to his new teammates.  After all, he spent his entire NBA career with the Bobcats

Have a problem at point guard?  Just trade the old guy for an up-and-coming solid younger player.  Duh.  Trading for Raymond Felton might have been one of the best moves in the offseason around the entire league.  It never seemed like Andre Miller was the right fit.  Felton should speed things up which will be good with Matthews, Wallace, Batum and Aldridge.  His 15.5 points and 8.8 assists will be welcome with open arms.

Nolan Smith was an interesting draft pick.  The point guard from Duke could be great or could be a bust.  You tend to lean on the side of great when talking about Mike Krzyzewski-coached players.  I’m just not sure how much he will play with Felton starting and Mills and Armon Johnson ahead of him.

The Rumor Mill cometh.   No team can communicate with players during the lockout.  This makes free agent signing impossible and even worse the rumors less likely.  This is the one case where that doesn't matter since Carl Landry came out in the media and spoke to how he wanted to play for Portland.  He would be a great addition and add to the depth of a team that is already deep. 

The Blazers have been deep and talented for several years.  This year is no exception. 

You can see the talent on papers and with the Iron Fist of coach Nate McMillan you can guarantee the team will play defense and not be in the paper for anything negative.  The question is, can they get over the hump? 

This year the Lakers are older, the Nuggets are disbanded and San Antonio might be the oldest team in history.  Dallas won the title, but the age of that team will be in question.  The Blazers should be the NBA Elite right along with Oklahoma City, but... I always have to add that after what we have been privy to the last four seasons.  


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