I hate to begin the week on a solemn note, but I was thinking about this all weekend. We talked last week about the potential impact of Greg Oden, which is frankly enormous. But what about the other side of that coin? We already lost Greg for an entire season. What if his injuries end up being chronic? What are the Blazers' prospects then?
The test case in this scenario is the Houston Rockets. Their dynamite combo of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady should have been foolproof, especially when surrounded by the scorers and workers they had this year. There's just one flaw in the plan: they can't keep Yao on the court for an entire season. You have to give the guy credit. I had reservations about him when he was drafted first overall--not that the pick was in error, but rather how much impact he would ultimately have compared to the best centers who had been drafted first. Yao has worked on his game, learned the NBA, and he's the best pure center in the game right now and one of the most influential players overall. But without his health it doesn't mean much in terms of the team's ultimate aspirations. The Rockets are still good, but they're spinning their wheels without their pivotal player.
That's exactly the future which awaits Portland if Oden can't go. The Blazers can certainly be good without him. Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, and this exciting group of youngsters will certainly become a familiar playoff team. With enough experience and drive they can probably reach the second round, perhaps even the conference finals if the ball bounces right. But any hopes of Finals appearances and rings rest squarely on Oden's shoulders. No monster in the middle equals less defensive cohesiveness, the return of rebounding woes, and fewer high-percentage scoring opportunities. In the playoffs that spells disaster. You can get by for a while but a really good team is going to bake your biscuits if you show weakness in any of those areas. We might be able to make a semi-run without Lamarcus or even without Brandon. It would be hard but we could survive a series or two. But missing Greg makes the playoff run a no-go from the start.
The difference is, in essence, the difference between the ascending arcs of San Antonio and the Rockets in the new century. Both are good. Both sets of fans have plenty of reason to be happy and buy tickets. But you'd never mistake the two teams for each other.
Personally I'm hoping pretty hard that Oden holds up.
This is my take on the one thing that could go wrong with the Blazers' hopes for the near future. What is yours? If you were to pick one thing that would send us off-track and hamstring any title hopes we might carry, what would it be? Share below.