2010 NBA Offseason: Portland Trailblazers

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Portland Trailblazers (Last Year: 50-32)

Live 2010 NBA Draft Grades:

Blazers Overall Team Grade
First off, WONERFUL timing by the Blazers. Way to tell your general manager he is getting canned just hours before the 2010 NBA Draft. Still, give Kevin Pritchard credit for not intentionally butchering this draft. Here is what confuses me about their picks; Portland is a pretty deep team but added four bodies through the draft. Williams and Johnson will join an already crowded backcourt, while Babbitt and Gomes play the same position. I thought for sure Portland would address their need for a physical power forward to backup LaMarcus Aldridge or an insurance policy at center since Greg Oden is ALWAYS hurt. They added talent on draft day, but will they actually see playing time? (Grade: C)

16. Luke Babbitt, SF, Nevada
Well, first of all, I am glad Babbitt slid this far because I didn’t think he was a top 10 prospect like so many people were predicting. Babbitt came over via trade, and he is a solid value here and will give Portland a shooter off the bench. Although with Ryan Gomes coming over in that trade and Nicolas Batum already on the roster, where do his minutes come from? (Pick Grade: Meh)

22. Elliot Williams, G, Memphis
Rumors had Portland very high on Williams and I guess they were accurate. I think this is high for Williams, but I guess if Portland likes him, they like him. I am not sure how he fits in a loaded backcourt with Miller, Roy, Bayless and Fernandez. I think they could have use insurance up front in a big man like Alabi, Orton or Whiteside. (Pick Grade: Don’t Get It)

34. Armon Johnson, PG, Nevada
So they took Williams at 34 when their backcourt was already crowded and then they take Johnson here. I think Johnson is a good value here but have no idea how he fits in unless someone gets traded. Wouldn’t Portland have been better off adding a physical backup for Aldridge like Gani Lawal or insurance at center like Alabi? (Pick Grade: Don’t Get It)

2009-10 Season Summary:
It’s difficult to say a 50-win team suffered from some hard luck, but the Blazers did. They finished four games worse than their record the previous season with much of the same players. Injuries played their part, sure, but this season just had a different feel for the Blazers. They didn’t seem like the team on the rise anymore although they didn’t look like a team that had arrived yet either. Brandon Roy was just shy of his 2009-10 pace, but still proved worthy of being a go-to scorer. LaMarcus Aldridge was an 18-and-8 player, and young players such as Martell Webster, Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless all took big steps in the progression as NBA players. Yet, the team was never a bona fide threat to contend in the Western Conference.

This all goes without mentioning the black cloud hanging over the franchise that is Greg Oden’s knobby knees. The No. 1 overall pick in 2007 has played in a total of 82 of a possible 246 regular season since being drafted, and is the giant 7-foot tall elephant that wanders into the room every time someone discusses the Trailblazers’ future. Oden showed glimpses of being a dominant center to start the season, but those glimpses were suddenly cut short by another season-ending injury in early December. With Joel Pryzbilla also missing the second half of the season due to injury, Portland was forced to trade for Marcus Camby and signed him to a 2-year extension worth about $17.7 million.

2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Greg Oden/Joel Pryzbilla

PF: LaMarcus Aldridge/Marcus Camby/Jeff Pendergraph

SF: Nicolas Batum/Luke Babbitt/Dante Cunningham

SG: Brandon Roy/Rudy Fernandez/Wesley Matthews/Elliot Williams

PG: Andre Miller/Jerryd Bayless/^Patrick Mills/Armon Johnson

NBA Free Agents:

F Ryan Gomes (UFA)

^PG Patrick Mills (RFA)

PF Juwan Howard (UFA)

PG Travis Diener (UFA)

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $78.8 million

2010-11 League Salary Cap: $58 million

Offseason Moves:
  • Blazers sign SG Wesley Matthews to 5-year, $33.4 million deal
  • Blazers C Joel Przybilla picks up player option for final year of his contract
  • Blazers acquire F Ryan Gomes and SF Luke Babbitt (16th pick) from Timberwolves for SF Martell Webster
  • Blazers waive F Ryan Gomes

    NBA Offseason Needs:

    1. Healthy Knees- Both their 2006 and 2007 first-round picks missed time last season with knee injuries and it severely dropped the Blazers’ ceiling. I’m not saying the team can win a championship with a healthy Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, but it wouldn’t hurt their chances. Roy is one of the league’s most dependable guards, especially in crunch time, and he is a driving force for the team. A healthy Oden would also likely make life for the team, the front office and the Blazers fans much more enjoyable as they could finally enjoy the basketball talent that the world recognized during his high school career.

    2. A Third Banana- Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge have established themselves as a first and second option, but the NBA has proven time and time again that in order to make the leap, you need a third banana to sniff the Conference Finals. The Blazers don’t have a consistent one yet. Whether the player that fills this hole comes from the current roster, the draft or a trade, the Blazers need one more guy that can be among the five best players on the court for every game and can sometimes be the best player on the floor.

    3. More Team Needs- The thing about Portland is that they don’t really suck at anything. They play good defense, have good talent, coaching and options moving forward. The problem is that they only need to tinker with the roster and marginally improve in a few areas to be a 55-plus win team. Making minor changes to improve minor problems in the NBA is hard. Portland has good depth and seemingly good chemistry which makes GM Kevin Pritchard’s job (which is rumored to be in serious jeopardy despite building this franchise back to respectability) to better the team like walking a tight rope on ice skates with no net in a tornado. If he makes one wrong move, the team could free fall down the standings.


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