I’m sure I have talked about this once before, but it’s been a while and with all of the talk about the impact of new players and talent depth it’s been on my mind.
Depth, talent, and versatility are important. Those things are valuable in getting through an 82-game grind and positioning yourself for the playoffs. The more arrows you have in your quiver the better chance that some of them will strike home over the long run. However once you get to the playoffs it becomes a different game…not so much about the number of arrows (as the chances to fire are more limited over seven games than eighty-two) but about how accurately you take your best shot and how much damage you do with it.
Fast forward eight months down the road. The Blazers are entering the playoffs for the first time since back in Ought-Three. For fun let’s say it’s against the L*kers. (If you don’t like that, figure instead at some point we’ll have to face them to make it to the promised land.) I guarantee you somewhere--could be a fanpost here, could be another site entirely, might even be in a print publication--somebody is going to offer some version of the following analysis. (I’m using last year’s
Derek Fisher vs. Steve Blake: Push
Lamar Odom vs. Martell Webster: Edge L*kers
Andrew Bynum vs. Greg Oden: Edge Blazers
Bench: Edge Blazers
Blazers have three edges, L*kers have two, Blazers should win.
Sounds logical on paper. Reality doesn’t follow that logic, however. The fly in the ointment is that the NBA playoffs don’t depend on edging out your opponent in more positions as much as they depend on who has the best overall player on the floor. Even in this new, team-game-friendly league the gap that matters most is the superstar gap. You can edge a team out in three or four of six positions (including bench). They’ve got
The key to playoff success is simple: You have to have a guy on the floor who has the potential to be the best, most dominant player out there on a given night, who fulfills that potential more often than not, and who warps the whole game for both sides when he does fulfill that potential.
Fast forward once again to today. Brandon Roy is an incredible leader, a clutch player, an amazing scorer…in many ways he’s the Terry Porter of his time. (Keep in mind that while we think of Terry as a point guard he really shaded towards a hybrid who marked scoring and team leadership among his strongest gifts.) Lamarcus Aldridge is going to become dominant, perhaps as much as Mo Lucas ever was offensively. The young talent surrounding those two has everybody salivating. But
Greg Oden will have the potential to trump any opponent mismatch in the same way Kobe Bryant does…not just an edge, but THE edge that makes the opponent edges not matter anymore. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen in the regular season, when it’s go-time in April, May, and eventually June, that’s going to make the difference. You can win a series here and there without him, but if you want to dream about Finals appearances, Oden is your guy.