TSN Blazers Season Preview
There are two major camps that have cropped up in light of Greg Oden's unfortunate microfracture surgery. One camp has looked upon this plight as one in a string of unfortunate big-man injury issues that stretches back to Bill Walton and Sam Bowie. They believe this injury speaks to an overall fragility in Oden that will prevent him from ever becoming the player the Trailblazers thought they were getting when they drafted him last June.
The other camp believes that because of Oden's age and the relatively minor nature of this particular microfracture surgery that Oden should be able to make a full recovery in the vein of Amare Stoudemire and Zach Randolph.
Let's assume then, for the purpose of this preview, that the reality of this situation will fall somewhere in the middle. Oden has had a troubling bout with injuries thus far in his young career, but until anyone sees his completed rehabilitation they can't assume he won't recover from this specific surgery and be ready for training camp one year from now.
So with that dealt with, how about the rest of this team? Well, for a team that was already a long-shot to make the Playoffs, they are now more than likely going to have to swallow another rebuilding year as they wait for their big-man to return. Truth be told, however, that may not be such a horrible fate to have to endure.
It would be one thing if this was a team loaded with veterans or even one veteran who must try and prop up an under experienced supporting core. But it's not. The Blazers are a young team, through and through, with only big men Raef LaFrentz and Joel Przybilla having been born before 1980. That means that this team can use all of the court time together they can muster before the games start to really mean something as they become shouldered with expectations.
With Oden out, the clear leader for this upstart squad is last year's Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy. He was a statistical marvel last season for a rookie, going for 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game. However, the more impressive element of his game was his leadership abilities. Statistically he won't be depended on too heavily to do any one thing as this roster is fleshed out and developed. What he'll really be called on for is his ability to play with poise and maturity and lead by example. He makes very smart decisions with the ball in his hands, he has strong defensive instincts and he just carries himself with the demeanor of a leader. As flighty as that sounds sometimes it is an intangible quality that allows a player to command the respect of his peers. Whatever way one chooses to look at it, it's hard not to think that the Blazers are in a very good place with the man they elected to draft last year as their leader going forward.
His draftmate, though, will be the one with a greater load to bear, especially statistically. With Oden out, LaMarcus Aldridge becomes the anchor in the frontcourt, and while he was able to fill in admirably last season when Zach Randolph went down, a full season's worth of starting minutes will go a long way towards showing what Aldridge has to offer this team in the long term. He is a very smart (if not entirely intimidating) rebounder, gauging very ably where the ball will come off of the rim, and he has a nice mid-range game that sets up his drives to the basket. He may not yet be a frontcourt type to build an offense around, but he's a nice compliment to Roy and the overall direction this team looks to be going in.
Truth be told, it's hard to really 'preview' this team going into the 2007-2008 season. With Oden recovering, no one really expects anything out of this team but a solid effort for 82 games. There really aren't any storylines to watch for beyond observing the overall development of some intriguing prospects. There is a bit of a logjam at point guard that will have to play itself out, as well as an apparent void at small forward with Ime Udoka leaving for San Antonio, so there is something to watch there to see who emerges in that spot. All in all, though, this season is already a write-off for the Blazers and any success above competitiveness that they can muster would just be icing on what amounts to an extended training camp for this franchise.
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