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News » Blazers finally have foundation for success

Blazers finally have foundation for success

Blazers finally have foundation for success
The last time the Trail Blazers made the playoffs, Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, Dale Davis and Damon Stoudamire were on the roster.

A multi-year makeover later, things are once again looking rosy in Portland.

Bleacher Report

Bayless follows a never-ending line of great guards from Arizona, including Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby, Damon Stoudamire and Steve Kerr. That pedigree alone demands playing time.

If the summer league is any indication, Bayless should address a glaring need for Portland: free throws. The Blazers were 26th in the league last year in freebies attempted per game, thanks in large part to being mostly a jump-shooting team. Bayless' fearlessness in attacking the basket should bump that stat up significantly, raising point production along with it.

Fernandez could, if given playing time, become the annoying foreign guy that almost every team needs to win (see: Ginobili, Parker, Vujacic, Kukoc, etc.).

McMillan got an up-close encounter with Fernandez's game in Beijing, watching helplessly from the bench as the Spaniard shredded Team USA's defense for 22 points — 15 from 3-point range — in the gold-medal game. With sharp-shooter James Jones moving to Miami via free agency, 3-point shooting will be at a premium for Portland this season.

Blake is the reliable backup point guard that McMillan will need when his team starts getting impatient or inconsistent. His assist-to-turnover ratio last season (3.65, good for seventh in the league) was even higher than Roy's.

The best thing about the Blazers' stable of young guards? All four of them are good enough that they feel they deserve playing time. Their motivation, and subsequently their performance, should skyrocket thanks to the competition.

Oden provides anchor on defense

In a March 19 game against Phoenix, Portland's interior was blasted apart by Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal, who combined for 41 points and 22 rebounds.

At one point in the game, Blazers center Joel Przybilla attempted to get into it with Shaq, staring him down and jawing with him. While he averaged over eight rebounds a game, Przybilla is by no means an intimidator to the big men in the Western Conference.

Replace him with Greg Oden. Despite the fact he hasn't played in over a year, and despite the fact he had only one decent year at Ohio State, he gives the Blazers something they didn't have: a defensive big man with a reputation.

That rep alone will deter guards from penetrating with little-to-no regard for the consequences. The paint will no longer be a personal playground for the likes of Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Deron Williams. And Oden will give opposing centers and forwards second thoughts before attempting to bull their way inside.

On offense, Portland should be able to give Oden a smooth transition to the NBA thanks to forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge already provides the bulk of the Blazers' scoring on the front line, allowing Oden to maximize his defensive talents without rushing his offensive development. The majority of Aldridge's scoring comes from a mid-range face-up game, which will give Oden the space he needs to operate underneath.

Other West teams take a step back

Portland's improvement couldn't come at a more opportune time. Last year's No. 8 seed, Denver, traded away its only line of defense (Marcus Camby) to the Clippers for nothing more than fiscal breathing room.

Golden State lost its two best guards in the offseason, one to free agency (Baron Davis' own escape to L.A.), and the other to injury (Monta Ellis' moped accident).

Sacramento gave up on Ron Artest for nostalgia (Bobby Jackson's heralded return), and Phoenix and Dallas got even older.

At least one, if not two or three playoff seeds will be up for grabs come April. The young Blazers should be able to snatch one of them from another team's failing clutches this season.

For more from this Bleacher Report writer, click here.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: September 27, 2008


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