Okay, now that the season is over, we can pause to reflect.
We finally have some answers to questions surrounding this team. The biggest being what will we need to take the next step?
One way of looking at this year and our playoff trip is that every one of our guys got some serious experience to take with them this summer and they will only grow from this.
The great thing about this experience is that we now know what we need to obtain this off-season.This playoff run really exposed our weaknesses and deficiencies and will, ultimately, better prepare management in making the decisions that they need to make this summer. Perhaps they will think that this year was a great success and that our team only needs another year of experience together to correct our deficiencies.Only time will tell.
Now onto my observations...what we need.
1) A point guard. Steve Blake has been a solid point guard for this team throughout the year, but he made some monumental mistakes in the playoffs. Essentially, he cracked under pressure. We need a heady and steady point guard who can defend and run the offense as well as be able to handle pressure situations. Steve will make an excellent back-up, but this series showed that he is not the answer for us at point. My pick would be Andre Miller who is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and, by the way, had a hell of series against the Orlando Magic. He fills our need at point and will also give us a veteran presence on this young team, without usurping the leadership responsibilities from Brandon and LA.
2) A post up game. I think we may be able to stand pat on this one. Greg (I hope you put some serious work into your offense skill-set this summer) can develop a nice inside game with some practice and some one-on-one mentoring (Mr. Allen, please prepare your check book!) I think Oden starting next year and Przy coming off the bench we will be extremely solid at the five spot. I think picking up a veteran big man such as Joe Smith or Antonio McDyess would be a great pick up for us.
3) Lastly, we need a new coach. In my humble (yet accurate) opinion, our biggest problem in the Houston series was the fact that Nate was thoroughly out-coached, and it was glaringly evident in the last game of the Houston series. Nate's player rotations were off the entire series. He just seemed to not have a good feel for the games in the playoffs and how to coach his team during them. Now, I know Nate is most likely not going anywhere, so perhaps hiring an assistant and delegating offensive responsibility to him would be beneficial; much like Doc Rivers has done with Tom Thibodeau and the defense for the Celtics.
All-in-all, there is absolutely no reason for us to hang our heads. In fact, losing like this may be a benefit to us. Our young team just found out that their 54-win season doesn't amount to much if you can't win in the playoffs. Hopefully, going out like this will leave a bitter taste in the Blazers mouth and will manifest itself in hard summer workouts/improvements and a great season next year.
Next season I see us with a different starting point guard and Greg starting at center, with more of an emphasis to get him involved in the offense. Also, I don't see Outlaw with the team next year either. With his total no-show in the playoffs as well as Webster coming back and Batum's quick development, I just don't see any room for him on the roster. Of course, his friendship with Brandon and Nate's obvious infatuation with him may prevent any trade.
Also, if Nate is still around, Rodriguez may be gone as well, which is unfortunate since he is our best offensive orchestrator. I think he and Channing would benefit the most from a coaching change, particularly when it comes to the offense.
In the end, however, I have to tip my hat to this young Blazer team. What they accomplished this season was nothing short of remarkable and they will only get better with more time together. This season was just a prelude for what's to come. Next season will be one for the ages and I'm sure the rest of the NBA is not looking forward to facing us in the years to come.
Thank you Blazers, for a great year! See you next season...