Thinking of Batum and the Blazers a couple years down the road

I've actually been pretty critical of Batum recently, not because of of his shooting or defense, but for his ability to take over a game. We've all seen the flashes of briliiance, but we've also seen him stand patiently in the corner for 20 min. a game. Mostly frustration came from reading up on his pre-NBA career. I never realised how much scouts loved his game, not only his defense, but his shooting (midrange mostly), his passing, penetration and even his post play. But just as much as they love his physical game, they harped on his lack of aggressiveness. Even on a team where he was obviously the best player, he would defer to lesser players and go stand in the corner. When he had the ball, he did very well as a point forward, but often passed when he should have finished himself.

Then I realised that we don't need him to be Durant with Turk's passing. With the help of Dave's excellent post on Roy, I realised that we don't need an MJ, we need a Pippen. His aggressiveness is still an issue, but that will come with time, but it makes him fit very well with Roy. He doesn't need the ball in his hands, but can be very effective whether on or off the ball. And "passing too much" isn't such a problem when he has 4 other great players around him that can all finish and/or shoot.

As I thought about this on my way to work, I thought of Bayless as well. The jury is still out on whether Bayless can become a "true" point guard, and yet it seems that everyone agrees that we dont need a true point guard to fit alongside Roy. The general consensus on the pg we need, is to be willing to defer to Roy, able to knock down the open 3, have good defense, not be completely inept at driving the lane, and be able to pass to the open man/kick out.

The pro Bayless Bedgers generally say that his ast% and TO% is both well improved in his second year. Also he was shooting 40% from 3 during the playoffs and shot 40% as well in college, indicating returning to the mean. Anti Bayless Bedgers point out the low 3 pt % during the regular season and that the playoffs were a small sample size. Not to mention his shot just looks flat and people tend to be skeptical of an ugly shooter keeping a high %. They also mention that while his passing has improved, non-existent to bad isn't a great improvement and just fails the eye test. When he comes in, the offense stagnates, end of story.

All of these are good points, but as for me, I tend to believe the eye test. You really have to factor in that he's been swapping roles the entire season though. Given time and experience at the one, as well as a year or two under Miller, I think he will be more then capable manning the starting spot. His 3 pt shooting may never reach 40%, but we don't really need it to. 35% would be enough to keep his man from clogging the lane, and it' should be easily attainable for Bayless. His defense will come in time as well, he has the fire and physical tools to be very good. Only his short arms are a problem, but in my opinion,  staying in front of your man is more important than steals. He might have a little difficulty early on his first year starting, but Roy is the main playmaker, everything we get out of Bayless is a bonus, just like Batum.

I managed to get all this way without even mentioning his ability to get to the rim/line at will. If Batum is the calm presence on one side of Roy, Bayless is the fire and intensity on the other. His ability to get fired up a roar for even mediocre finishes is huge in the intangibles department in my eyes. And even if he doesn't get his team mates going from that, you know the rose garden will. I hope with time, the team will learn to feed on silencing a road crowd as much as lighting up a home crowd.

I feel that Roy, Oden and Aldridge are pretty cemented in the Blazers future, so I'll move on to the bench.

Has anyone else noticed the subtle change our second unit has taken? Out with fiery scorers like Sergio, Outlaw and (likely soon) Rudy. Now we bring in solid role players like Wesley, Cunningham, Johnson and Camby. No longer are we building a whole second unit to attack the opposing team, much like the Suns. Now we have solid backups that may not win you a game themselves, but definately won't lose you the game either (like the L@kers for example). Now that we have proper roles in place, this roster can easily be cut down to an eight man rotation for the playoffs. Even with a full blown unit of Johnson/Williams/Wesley(Babbit)/Cunningham/Camby, Johnson can actually RUN a team (not a trait our backup 1's have had for a while) so this unit would still be acceptable.

Anyone noticing a theme? Put it ALL together and this team just isn't built to win 73 games in the regular season, it's built to win 16 games in the Playoffs. We've got tons of size, athletisism, a superstar wing, an amazing glue guy, not one but two post presences, and excellent role players all around. If that's not a team built to win in the playoffs, I don't know what is.

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