In reading fan comments, reading trade rumors and listening to Rich Cho, Larry Miller and Nate McMillan on the air over the last few days I am left scratching my head, wondering what this team is trying to pull off. They clearly are excelling against the dregs of the league (I count Milwaukee's win over L.A. as anomalous) and demonstrated that they can hang with the elite given their new, up tempo, let-guys-play-to-their-strengths style coupled with a force-feeding of the ever improving Lamarcus Aldridge to opponents big and small. A quick recap of LA's ascension of late shows that he hammered the formidable defense of the Tyson Chandler/Brendan Haywood/Dirk Nowitzky triumvirate in Dallas, out muscled the rebounding machine of Kevin Love and the bigs of Minnesota, had his way with Golden State and completely destroyed Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden this past Monday. That is inspired play any way you slice it and I think is the basis for a strong team identity.
Now, when Marcus Camby returns - I'm assuming it will be soon - along with Joel and Dante and maybe even Brandon I would be looking to find a place that this new style has left he Blazers lacking...like at Center. Can you upgrade from the Pryz/Camby combo? To this I say no. Point guard? Is there anyone on the market better than Andre Miller for this style of game? Steve Nash, maybe. But is he on the market? Chris Paul, definitely. But same question arises and then you have to wonder if he is healthy knee wise on top of what it is you'd be giving up to get him. Andre? Sure. Batum. Ummm, OK. But what do you do at small forward once he is gone? Does Dante fill the role Nic would be vacating? And who is your backup three at that point? What about Nic and Joel's expiring contract for Iggy? That's about the only trade to which I'd acquiesce without blinking (even if Iggy can't shoot on the move), but hasn't that one already failed?
And on top of personnel decisions, you have to wonder if this is the style of play the Blazers management is comfortable trying to embrace. It is tons of fun to watch. Wes Matthews is proving more than capable of filling it up in this system. It has validated bringing Rudy Fernandez to the NBA. It frees of LA by moving the defense and letting him dunk approximately 17 times a game. Gotta love those easy finishes. But will it work against stellar defensive teams like the Lakers, Boston or OKC? Can it be balanced with enough defense to get you over the hump in the playoffs?
My opinion (you've read this far, so you must want to hear it, right)? Maintain a core for this year of Dre, Matthews, Nic, LA, Camby...that is formidable if LA can keep pace with the 20 and 9 he is currently averaging...and work on tweaking your second unit. You need punch coming off the bench and I don't think Rudy is consistently going to give it to you. If you could package him with Pryz to bring in JJ Reddick, I'd say maybe to that. I don't know if Rip Hamilton (and his $12.5 mil per) would make a good 6th man a la Jason Terry only because I think he might pout about the perceived demotion, but with regular minutes coming off the bench I'd say you got yourself the punch you need offensively more consistently than Rudy and a proven defensive stalwart in a player that is only 33, almost a year younger than Terry and can flat fill it up. Couple him with Mills, Cunningham and whatever rent-a-stiff we have on the bench to spell LA and Camby and you have yourself a pretty solid eight man rotation that can maintain an up-tempo game if you can find a way to swing Joel, Rudy and Babbitt for Hamilton. You'd also have a couple of roster spots to fill. And this assumes that Brandon shuts it down for the year...so that means another roster spot to fill and you'd be a little thin given the history of injuries this team has. Thank goodness for the D-League. I hear Antoine Walker is looking to make a comeback.