I believe the Blazers still have the right pieces in place to become a contender over the next couple seasons. I am not a fan of blowing up the team again. The team needs to build off what they have. Blazers are just a few pieces away from being really good again. After the jump is my unscientific analysis of why we don't need to rebuild.
Embrace Aldridge as franchise player: During their rookie season, I felt Aldridge had more long-term potential than Roy. Roy’s early success in Portland was due to his NBA-ready game and his type-A style of play. There was no way his body, with or without meniscuses, would be able to withstand years of abuse by constantly driving up the middle and getting pounded. However, super-athletic big men with great coordination historically fare well in the league. Aldridge’s smooth stroke and chip-on-his-shoulder attitude made me believe he was the best player of that draft. However, I began to doubt my initial feelings about Aldridge when his game plateaued into a jump-shooting wing-forward over the next couple seasons.
Fast-forward to today, Aldridge is only 25, and he is still growing as a player. His growth was clearly inhibited by the Blazers’ style of play over the last three seasons, to the point that his position as one of the three cornerstones of the franchise was highly questioned. Roy’s absence and Aldridge’s offseason work has answered my question of who will lead this team through the trasition phase and beyond. Aldridge is on his way to becoming a premier player in the league. Is his ceiling any lower than that of other premier F/Cs such as Garnett, Amare, or Gasol? Are the Blazers and worse off with his 25 & 10 versus Roys historical production? Especially if you consider Roy’s replacement…
Embrace Matthews as our starting shooting guard: Roy, as we knew him, will be missed. We all know that. We all need to accept he will likely never again be The Natural. I had no clue who this Matthews guy was about when we signed him. I didn’t understand the obsession with him when all the other teams were going after the big ticket free agents. Was I ever wrong. Now, how does he stack up against Roy? What is our net gain/loss replacing Roy with Matthews? Roy could score on anyone and get to the line whenever he wanted. He plays with both hands and is truly a clutch performer. Wes clearly is a better defender, albeit one who gambles too much. He moves better without the ball. And it seems other players contribute more consistently when he plays versus when Roy plays. Roy was constantly questioning whether he should demand the ball more or less, whereas Matthews seems to let the game flow determine his role. Because it isn’t ‘his’ team, there is no pressure to fit that go-to role. But when the team needs points, he seems to find ways to score. His game reminds me of Ruben Patterson, but with better passing ability, more maturity, and better upside. As a side note, I wish all our players would spend one season under Sloan.
Using the eyeball test, I believe the combined production of Wes and Aldridge exceeds that of Roy and Aldridge, especially if you consider the added involvement of the rest of the roster. Does that mean we are a better team without Roy? Not now. This lineup is still working out a lot of kinks and we do miss Roy’s ability t o take the offense out of a funk by taking over a game and getting to the line. And our bench is as thin and unreliable as it’s been in a long time. But I do like the long-term prospects better now than I did just a few weeks ago. The iso-offense simply doesn’t work in the long run. The featured player will eventually get shut down either by double teams or physical wear. Roy has experienced plenty of both. It appears the coaching staff has done a good job lately changing the style of play. For the first time in a long time, I am seeing player movement, ball movement, transition play, and interior post play. The team is actually watchable whether they are winning or not.
Blazers need to tinker with the roster, not blow up the team: Keep Camby and Miller. Build around the core of them, LMA, Wes, and Batum. Take advantage of JPEC for a healthy big man. Re-sign Oden (gasp) only so he cannot prosper with another team. With Roy's contract already in place, the team will not be able to draw any major free agents for a few years, therefore you have to gamble on Oden's ability to be the player he is capable of. The team will need to develop Mills into a solid backup PG, which he can be. Keep Rudy if he wants to be here in a backup role. Rebuild our depth through the draft and with offseason moves.
As for Roy, simply pray for him. His contract is what it is and will be nearly impossible to move. Best case is for him to have a miracle procedure that gives him a few years of relative pain free basketball in a reduced role. We know what the worst case is. It is all so much speculation. The bottom line is the team needs to assume he will not be there for them as an elite player, yet his contract will be there to hinder any major FA signings.