At the end of today, Portland will be midway through a season in which they have blown away all expectations. If you predicted this record during training camp, you are the biggest homer around (and also right, which has to make you the happiest homer of all time). The Blazers have won often, with any number of rotation players stepping up from game to game to deliver the victory. Brandon Roy gets all of the headlines, but Aldridge, Outlaw, Blake, Webster, Frye, Jones, Jack and Przybilla have all, at one point or another, played huge roles in pulling out wins.
In fact, Roy's supporting cast, and the chemistry exhibited by the group, has been so effective, you have to ask who is responsible for this success. And when you start to think about sustaining success over several years, it becomes important. The Blazers are built around players on rookie contracts; when those contracts expire, assuming continued team success, you better believe these youngsters are going to look to get paid for their part in the effort.
For the Blazers to reach their championship potential, I would posit that success has to come primarily on the backs, primarily, of three or four players. If Roy, Aldridge, Oden, and maybe another player (Outlaw? Fernandez? Free-agent to be determined?) can't bring us a championship with some interchangeable pieces around them, then we're going to have a hard time reaching the peak. Paul Allen may have deep pockets, but it simply isn't feasible to keep the whole roster in tact (we don't even have the roster spots to accommodate it).
Look at the teams with the most long-term success over the past decade, and you'll see a lot of teams built around two to four stars, with a lot of interchangeable pieces around them. If our current success is due to those supporting pieces, will our stars be able to step up in the next few years to make that cast replaceable?
So what do we think? In a couple of years, will our "star" core be good enough to win without the strength of the current ensemble behind them? Is something resembling the current ensemble necessary for continued success? Is my assumption that Paul Allen can't keep this cast together off-base? Is Rudy Fernandez the next MJ?