2009-10 Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers (54- 28) are a team on the upswing. Last season, they took second in their division and made it to the playoffs where they lost in the first round to the Houston Rockets. As the regular season rumble to its end, the Blazers went 22- 8 and looked exceptionally strong. The club played their usual game, excelling at offensive rebounding and efficiency while being one of the NBA’s slowest paced teams. They played their half-court game and dominated the offensive boards, which gave them additional shots at sinking a basket. The field goal accuracy of the team was average but they put up so many more shots than other teams that they were the second in offensive efficiency. They led the league in shots per possession and that ranking pretty much says it all about this club’s offensive output. On defense, they were not as good. They weren’t bad. They were simply fairly average.
The Portland frontcourt could be one of the beat around. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (18.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, O.95 BPG, 0.95 SPG) is one of the better big men in the league. His turnaround baseline jumper is almost impossible to defend. The small forward spot could go to second year player Nicolas Batum (5.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.9 APG). He played for the injured Martell Webster last season. Batum proved to have fine defensive chops but was raw. Greg Oden (8.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.13 BPG) will play the pivot spot. After missing his rookie season due to injury, his play last year was mediocre. Off the bench, forward Travis Outlaw (12.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.0 APG) is one of the best sixth men in the NBA.
The backcourt is the essence of this team. Shooting guard Brandon Roy (22.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.13 SPG) always shows up and works hard. Along with being one of the best performers on the court, he’s an amazing PR presence. Across from him, point guard Andre Miller (16.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.33 SPG) will battle Steve Blake (11.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.0 APG) for that starting spot. Miller is a better all-around shooter while Blake excels from downtown. Rudy Fernandez, who is in his second season, has a fine touch from long range.
Here’s the question: does size matter? It does in terms of this team. The centers are seven-foot-even and seven–foot-one, one forward is six-foot-eleven and two perimeter guys are six-foot-nine and six-foot-eight. This is a tall team and that allows them to dominate opponents. It’s not easy to find a weakness on the Blazers. The three starters in front are topnotch and big but after that the bench is thin and small.
The Blazers are one of the most balanced, efficient teams in the NBA. Additionally, this is a young group. Many of the players are ready to break through. There is the chance that the team could regress but the fact is that head coach Nate McMillan has one of the best starting and bench units in the league. Portland will take the top spot in the Northwest Division and should end the year second in the Western Conference. Watch for them in the playoffs this year. They could go far.