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2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Portland Trail Blazers Preview

October 17, 2008 | By Daniel Olson | comment on this post

The 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit just keeps on coming, today with Daniel putting the talented Blazers under the microscope.

For a team that nearly made the playoffs last season, you would think that one or two big changes would be made in order to get over the hump in the uber competitive Western Conference. But the Blazers really did not need to make a huge splash via free agency or trade. Why, you might ask, did Paul Allen’s club essentially stand pat? That would be the return of a healthy Greg Oden for what will be his rookie campaign after missing all of last season with arthroscopic knee surgery and the trade on draft day to acquire the number 11 overall pick (Jerryd Bayless) and Ike Diogu from the Indiana Pacers for the draft rights to Brandon Rush, plus Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts.

The Blazers, who finished 10th in the West last year, are being led by their defensive-minded coach, Nate McMillan, who helped the team limit their opponents to only 96.3 points per contest last year, sixth best in the West. And with the highly anticipated debut of Oden in the middle, expectations are running higher than ever for the team once referred to as the Jail Blazers and now maybe referred to as the Baby Blazers. But you won’t catch many teams being able to steal candy from these babies.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Steve Blake
SG: Brandon Roy
SF: Travis Outlaw
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Greg Oden

Key Bench Players: Joel Pryzbilla, Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, Channing Frye

Position Battles

While Blake has proved to his naysayers that he can compete at the NBA level despite his slender 172 pounds, he will be pressed hard and early by the rookie sensation Bayless. The Blazers did not make the draft day trade for Bayless to let him rot on the bench so expect him to get quality minutes early on with a jump to the starting lineup inevitable at some point in the season.

Another semi battle to look out for might be Outlaw and Webster. Webster has yet to play in the pre-season and is expected to miss eight-to-10 weeks due to surgery on a stress fracture in his left foot. Outlaw, who has shown flashes of brilliance, will start in Webster’s absence and it might be tough for Webster to regain the starting SF position.

Stud: If Roy can stay healthy throughout the course of a long 82-game season, the Blazers will be right in the playoff hunt. He has shown that he was the steal of the draft two seasons ago and his versatility to do a little bit of everything will help immensely. Not only did he score 19.1 points per game last year, but he dished out 5.8 assists and pulled down 4.7 boards per game, an impressive total for a guard. With this being Oden’s first true season, Portland will need Roy to help show the big boy the ropes and feed him down low.

Dud: Joel Przybilla was fantastic in the second half last year, averaging over 11 boards per game, but he has too many holes in his game for fantasy purposes and with Oden around to steal his thunder, there’s not much point in owning this big man.

Sleeper: Guard Rudy Fernandez could be a key factor as a backup for the Blazers. At 6’5”, he showed the ability to hit the jumper and take it to the hole in Spain where he had a great deal of success. Injuries in preseason have slowed him down, but keep your eyes on him as the year progresses.

Rookies to watch: Bayless and Fernandez could come through big time in the backcourt this season. And don’t forget about that Oden dude; the Blazers could very well have be best rookie threesome in the league.

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15 Responses to “2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Portland Trail Blazers Preview”

  1. Don says:

    Well, I disagree on several points. First, Outlaw is not the clear starter, even with Webster hurt. Batum has come out of nowhere to impress and is proving that he is already the best defensive option at SF. He has a 7′4″ wingspan. His offensive game too, appears to be ahead of Outlaw’s at this point. Although playing coy about his reasons, McMillan had Batum playing with the starters in practice the other day, while Outlaw was the backup. Fernandez or Roy could also play that spot.

    Next, Blake is much better this year than last. Bayless is not close to him and will not challenge this year unless he finds a way to improve significantly.

    Finally, the Blazers are a lock for the playoffs, healthy Brandon or not. One national writer has picked Portland to win it all, and while I don’t quite go that far, your approach is ultra conservative.

  2. Don says:

    Oh yeah, and Pryz is one of the better defensive centers in the NBA. He is absolutely perfect as a backup. Many teams would love to have him as their starter.

  3. RotoRob says:

    Hey Don,

    I’m going to let Daniel address most of the points here, but in regards to Przybilla, that was my choice as the dud, so I’ll deal with that one. While I agree that he’s among the finest defensive centres in the game, who would you select as a dud on the Blazers? Is there a fantasy-worthy player other than Przybilla who doesn’t have major upside? And with Oden finally making his debut, Pryzbilla is affected more than anyone, hence my choice.

  4. Don says:

    Jerryd Bayless is on the outside looking in. Rodriguez has really stepped up and looks to be much improved from last season. Blake is the clear starter, and will surprise people how good he is with all of the talent that surrounds him now (plus he’s worked extremely hard in the off season and is said to be the most improved Blazer). So where does that leave Bayless? As a shooting guard? First he’s too small for that spot and second, no way he’s replacing either Roy or Fernandez. Bayless was a steal, but look for him to be traded, possibly along with Travis Outlaw this year. Batum is going to be great and he and Martel will hold down the 3. Just my two and one half cents.

  5. Don says:

    On http://www.oregonlive.com, my thoughts on Batum appear to be happening right now. “McMillan, as he has done at practice all week, inserted rookie Nicolas Batum into the starting lineup at small forward Thursday night, and confirmed after the scrimmage that he planned to start the Frenchman Monday night against Sacramento. McMillan said he would plug Batum into a lineup with Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden.” We’ll see how he does.

  6. RotoRob says:

    Thanks for the update, Don. Personally, I have been very big on Rodriguez for a while. Injuries and inexperience have held him back, but I always thought once he got over his flashy passing phase, he’d be a serious player. I’d love to see him get his chance.

  7. Daniel Olson says:

    That’s a lot of stuff to address Don but I appreciate your input!

    The way you see Bayless, inexperienced and difficult to claw the starting line-up, is the way that I see Batum. Outlaw has the experience and showed last season that he can be legitametly effective. I don’t really care who starts in the pre-season seeing as right now most rosters are sitting at 17-18 players.
    Also, I do believe Steve Blake is an effective point guard, but he reminds me of a Luke Ridnour. He can have flashes of greatness, but I just don’t believe he is an all star caliber point guard (don’t get me wrong, Blake is clearly a better defender then Ridnour i was speaking offensively). That being said, I can see Bayless challenging for the starting job and i highly doubt they would shop him this season after specifically trading for him in the draft….I guess we shall see what happens.

  8. DJ says:

    It is really just way too soon on so many of these issues. I think that Batum and Bayless will both be fighting hard to get any substantial regular season minutes – and current injuries will only slightly affect that. I think Rudy and Roy will be played more and more throughout the season in the 1-2 or 2-3 setup. The key for Bayless and Batum will be their ability to defend which is nearly better now than the more mature players in from of them. And playing with Roy-Rudy or Blake-Roy combo gives the blazers the flexibility to play Bayless (offensively as a 2 and defensively as a 1) and/or Batum more often as things go on – since they could have two great ball handlers on the court at all times.

  9. Don says:

    You may be right about Batum. He’s still so young and inexperienced, it’s really hard to know. But what we do know is that he is already much further advanced than anyone really thought, including McMillan. He has also performed very well in preseason and nobody at the 3 comes close to his physical tools. So, we’ll see.

    As far as Bayless is concerned, he really hasn’t shown me anything yet, outside of Summer League. You can’t doubt his athletecism, but he is much more raw than I previously thought. And although Batum is also raw, he’s not fighting Roy and Fernandez for playing time. But if the Blazers decide to hold on him, I don’t doubt that he has a long term place in this league.

  10. DJ says:

    The progress of Batum is just another case of how great life has been for us out here in the Rose city.. and how the legend of the ‘PritchSlap’ continues to grow. Within three-five years, we could easily have 4-6 players who will be in the talks for all-nba and all-defensive team, all-star, mvp, 6th man, and such awards each year.

    I will disagree that Bayless has only showed anything special in summer league… I mean.. he’s certainly not ready to be trusted with the ball in his hand when it counts and is the least ready to contribute at his position.. still he is one of the ten best rookies this year merely based on his determination on the defensive end and his options in scoring. I will be surprised if, even considering a likely lack of serious playing time, any rookie guard (other than Rose, Mayo, Westbrook, and Rudy) can prove a better contributor than Bayless out the gate. I think he will have the style of play and be able to have the impact on a game similar to Barbosa (only longer) by the start of next season.

  11. Daniel Olson says:

    I watched Bayless play in the pac-10 last year essentially all season and let me tell you he is special. I don’t think he will be ready right away to take over the starting spot obviously but I feel like he will be eased into it as he is very talented. And that is no knock against Steve Blake, just they drafted Bayless for a reason…

  12. DJ says:

    Thanks for the insight.. I am also pretty sure the Blazers made that draft day trade specifically because they wanted Bayless and they could not believe he fell into a position where they could get him. I also can’t knock on Pritchard’s draft day decision making yet..

    was Bayless so intense playing in the pac-10? Some Portland fans are even put off by his demeanor. He is something else to watch; I think it will take most of the year to see what Bayless can really bring to the court but I’m sure the long term plans are to have this guy in the core.

  13. Daniel Olson says:

    To be quite honest with you, Bayless is definitely not the most intense player and sometimes even seemed lackadaisical. But that being said, there were a few games where he absolutely went into overdrive and took complete control of the game at the point.

    My biggest worry on Bayless would be his attitude problem and whether he has the drive to give a 110 per cent every game. I think he could have used another season at UA, but with the Lute Olson fiasco currently escalating right now maybe it is better for him to be on a young team with a coach like Nate McMillan…

  14. db says:

    I was going to make a few points, especially about prizbilla, but don about summed it up……….way to go bud

  15. RotoRob says:

    Uh, thanks for joining in on the fun, DB. You’re a little late, but hey, like they say…better later than never.

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