This is the third in our series of columns on why the Blazers should do well in the coming years despite a renewed lack of interest from the media and burgeoning summertime angst from the fan base because of the lack of big moves. Here are the second and first parts in case you haven't seen them.
Much of our discussion since last season ended, and not a little hand-wringing on the side, has revolved around Portland's point guard position. Some point to the relative merits and liabilities of Andre Miller. Others want to champion or pillory young Jerryd Bayless. Almost everybody has spent a paragraph or two speculating on the possibilities of Chris Paul in Portland's lineup. In all cases, the consensus has been that something is missing right now. Arguments revolve around whether the gap will be bridged by people on the current roster or whether the Blazers need to make a move to rectify the situation.
My answer: It's OK! Whatever immediate issues the Blazers have at point aren't serious enough to keep the team from progressing. None of those issues are going to keep Portland from prospering long-term. The contention over the subject is out of proportion to its impact.
Should the Blazers upgrade at point? Of course, if they can. Had Paul really been available the Blazers should have snatched him up the same way you should cash in your Ford Explorer if someone offers you a Ferrari instead. The Explorer is a fine vehicle, but how many chances do you get to own a Scaglietti? And if Portland's goals are more modest--better gas mileage or handling or whatever they target in a price range more comfortable to their tax bracket--and can be achieved trading with Houston or Toronto or New Jersey then the Blazers should do it. There's no reason to be attached to any point guard currently on the team if you assess someone else as better. Portland has carte blanche to shuffle the position. No worries, no strings.
But what if they don't or can't? Is this the fatal flaw that will doom the team to mediocrity? Indeed not. Andre Miller is a competent, capable, in many ways brilliant point guard who should be A-number-1 on any team's list of guys they'd like to "make do" with in their lineup. If he's not your dream point guard you'll not find a better fill-in until you can achieve your dream. Jerryd Bayless brings scoring, athleticism, and a growing game to the table. If you counted teams with worse reserves you'd exhaust your fingers at least before you were done. Yes, the overall fit is in question with both of these guys but talent isn't and performance isn't.
How important is a perfect fit in the immediate future anyway? What, exactly, will those seams in the lineup keep the Blazers from this year? Portland will not win a championship in 2010-11. The immediate goal is the second round. Once that is achieved, everything else is delicious gravy. Whether or not the Blazers do make the second round (or the Conference Finals) will depend on several factors, none of which rest on the shoulders of Miller and Bayless. There are plenty of positives and few consequences for the negative in Portland's current point guard position.
The team does need to get more settled at point over the long haul. But that long-haul picture has either little or nothing to do with the current situation. Andre Miller will not factor into the equation when Portland gets good. In fact he'll not factor into the equation after next year as his contract will either be used for a trade before then or cut after another trade addressing the position or there will be a lockout and the contract will just peter out without him playing. Jerryd Bayless might be a factor, but only if he's good. If he doesn't fit the Blazers will move him and try again with Armon Johnson or Elliot Williams in reserve. If he does stay that means he worked out, right? In neither case are we saddled with whatever particular inadequacies people deem him to have. Today's problems will not be tomorrow's.
But what if Bayless doesn't work out and Miller leaves? That leaves the chamber empty, right? It does, but that eventuality won't look as dire in a couple years as it does now. Even in their early, young stages these players showed that they could succeed with a competent-but-not-extraordinary point guard in Steve Blake. That kind of point guard is going to be available in the future, especially if a guy like Bayless ends up being traded in return. In fact the next year or two could be seen as a free experiment to see whether Jerryd (or Johnson or Elliot if you prefer) can become something more than just competent...whether whatever shortcomings that emerge are counterbalanced by the added value and talent a Bayless brings to the table. Just because the Blazers are rolling the dice on an upgraded model doesn't mean they can never go with the baseline model again. And they'll be fine if they do. Even if you prefer a Miller-like veteran, those guys can be had too. Portland could easily bring in a new senior sensei every 2-3 years during the Big Four era...a guy who knows the job and knows how to stay out of the way of the stars but also packs a shooting or scoring punch. In short, the position--or at least the effect that the position has--won't look worse than it does this year...and it looks just fine this year. Equivalent guys will be readily available and the team will need them less.
The Blazers should absolutely dream of, and do everything they can to acquire, their ideal point guard. If that ideal isn't achieved this year, no problem. If that ideal is never achieved, still not much of a problem. The talent they've got and will be able to get at that position should prove adequate to the task at hand. If it's not the team has bigger problems that no acquirable point guard can solve.