PG. Raymond Felton
A capable pick and role operator
Pushes tempo, excels as an open court passer
Not afraid to attack the basket
Above average defense
Above average, albeit streaky outside shooter
Conditioning, weight issues need resolve
Can get caught overplaying passing lanes and the ball, causing him to lose his defensive assignment occasionally
Low volume scorer
While Raymond Felton may not be the dream point guard for the Blazers he is an improvement over Andre Miller. Felton will prove to be a more effective floor spacer and will push the tempo of the team on offense. He is a better defender than Andre Miller as well. Felton will not throw as many alley-oops as Miller, or rebound as much, but Felton's fast paced styled mixed with his floor spacing abilities make him a better fit for the personnel that the Blazers have currently.
Future Prognosis (2012 free agent)
If Felton plays himself into shape and proves that he can run the team efficiently with good defense and low turnovers the Blazers may indeed offer him a contract if nothing else comes their way (a la Deron, or Steve Nash). The worst case is if Felton leaves and the Blazers are left picking up the pieces with no viable replacement. Whether Felton will return or not will be much more clear as his play will dictate just how valuable he is to the team. Therefore the jury is still out on Felton's future as a Blazer.
SG. Wesley Matthews
Above average outside shot
Fast first step
Volume scorer (averaged a point every 2 min)
Draws fouls regularly
Cannot shoot off the dribble
Does not see the floor well
Poor mid range shooter (27percent)
Does not do anything spectacular
Little contribution in rebounds or assists
Originally signed as the bench player as insurance behind Roy, he has now been pushed up to the starting role due to Roy's departure. Matthews works best with teammates that can find him cutting down the lane or kicking out the basketball for an open 3. His straight line drives are not a thing of beauty as he uses his body to create space instead of dribbling the ball, but by doing so he is able to draw fouls. He is an effective scorer, but it all hinges on how good his teammates are around him.
Future Prognosis (signed through 2014)
While contractually Wesley seems set with the Blazers for a while, it does not mean that he will be with the Blazers or be starting for the Blazers throughout his whole tenure of his contract. Wesley could easily be traded for the right price, especially if a future draft pick is able to fulfill the SG spot better than Matthews. The organization however seems fairly high enough on Matthews that his contract will most likely be played all the way through with the Blazers unless another opportunity presents itself.
SF. Gerald Wallace
Can play both forward positions
Excels in open court, fast paced style
Below average outside shooting
Gerald Wallace is the Blazer's best defender, both as an on ball defender and on rotations. He plays 100 percent on both sides of the ball. He works best in the power forward position as his skills are much better utilized there. He cannot create his own shot off the dribble and works best as a slasher. He will need to learn new ways to score as his athletic abilities start to dwindle. Wallace will benefit a lot more this season with a faster tempo and teaming up with Raymond Felton again, when he had his last all-star appearance.
Future Prognosis (player option 2012)
I hate to say it, but I don't see a way in which Wallace stays unless the Blazers feel they can make a deep run in the playoffs this year. Wallace knows the sooner he gets another long contract the better as there looks to be a quite a few teams with cap space willing to spend. Wallace will look at other options and see if he can earn more money than he is getting now (9.5 mil), if so he is gone. Also if the Blazers have any inkling that Wallace will exercise his player option he will most undoubtedly be traded before the trade deadline for at least a few first round picks or a big man. Either way Wallace tenure as a Blazer will most certainly come to a close, whether it is after this season or the next.
PF. Lamarcus Aldridge
Can shoot from anywhere, in a variety of ways
Has an unblockable shot due to a high release
Can play both the Forward and Center Position
Extremely low turnover rate
Plays pick and roll well, resulting in countless alley-oops
Sometimes settles for jump shots
Sometimes gets caught trying to force things in a double team
Could use some work on the left hand
Aldridge had a break out year last year thanks to his aggressiveness towards the basket. His combination of height, strength, mobility and shooting touch makes him nearly impossible to stop. People tend to overlook his good defense as the Blazers allowed over 5 points less with him in the lineup. Also the Blazers best point differential came with Aldridge at Center. With Felton at the helm you won't see as many alley-oops but that won't stop Aldridge from being an All-star this year.
Future Prognosis (signed through 2014)
Aldridge is here to stay as a Blazer as long as he wants to. Make no mistake, the Blazers would be left with a bunch of above average players without him. Barring an injury or a trade for Dwight Howard in return (unlikely), Aldridge is here to stay as long as he wants to. Being the kind of person Aldridge is and the new extension rules in the CBA it is likely that we won't be seeing Aldridge leaving the Blazers for a very long time.
C. Marcus Camby
Good interior defender
Extremely good rebounder and shot blocker
Good passer for a big man
Mobility a plus for a center
Not very strong
Horrid offensive game
Does not defend outside of paint
Marcus Camby's talents have taken a noticeable dip as he has aged, but his interior defense still makes him a valuable commodity. Chances are he gets injured again, but when he is on the floor he does the little things that no other big men want to do. He will scrap on the floor for a loose ball and rebound any chance he can get, but his offense is so bad that in the fourth quarter he does not get as much playing time as Aldridge moves over to Center. Look for more of the same from Camby, including injuries along the way.
Future Prognosis (2012 free agent)
Marcus Camby is a big expiring contract that can be used as a trade chip, but it is unlikely that they get any takers, as there will be a plethora of teams still under the cap in 2012. The Blazers may be forced to re-resign him if they are left with nothing else, but it is unlikely as they will use their money to sign a more capable big man (Hibbert, Lopez, McGee, etc). It would not be surprising to see Camby leave to go play play for a contender (Heat, Lakers, Celtics) for a small contract, but it would not be surprising to see Camby stay for a couple more years either - given the price is right.
PG, SG. Jamal Crawford
Extreme good ball handling
Can create his own shot and shoot off the dribble - instant offense
Good passer, when motivated to do so
Good at drawing fouls
Good jump shooter
Streaky shooter at times
Jamal Crawford is instant offense, but not just because he can get a shot off against anybody, but because he can also create opportunities for other teammates. In the past Crawford has been asked to be a scorer, but his role on the Blazers may change to be more of a distributor if Felton fails to show his worth as the starting point guard. While in the past Crawford has been a poor defender, he is likely to step up at least to some degree as he knows his playing time depends on it. The Blazers are going to ask a lot out of Crawford this year in a shortened schedule. Jamal Crawford won't disappoint.
Future prognosis (player option 2012)
Crawford wanted the flexibility to choose what he wanted to do after this this year, mainly because there will be more teams buying next season. Crawford has said that if this team goes deep in the playoffs he would most likely come back. The Blazers would love for Crawford to stay for the rest of his career if possible, but if Crawford gets bigger offers he may leave after this year. Lets hope that does not happen.
SF, PF. Nicolas Batum
Defense, especially on the perimeter
Good three point shot
Very fast, very tall
Lack of Strength
Back to the basket game
Trouble Creating his own shot
Batum has had a very successful offseason playing in Europe. He won player of the week honors twice and showed improvement with the ball in his hands. His ball handling has improved and he is becoming more assertive as he becomes more confident in his basketball skills. The problem is he does not get very many plays run for him in a Blazers uniform. That may change some this year, but there has been little evidence to suggest that the Blazers are going to utilize him differently than they have in the past. It is easy to forget that he just turned 23 years old, with plenty of time for more improvement. If the improvement continues look for him to be a force to be reckoned with in his prime.
Future prognosis (free agent 2012)
The Blazers see Batum as a cornerstones for their future. While the organization may be a little too optimistic about Batum's future, he is still a good investment to build around as long as they don't overpay him. Look for him the get a three to four year extension by the deadline of January 25.
SG. Elliot Williams
Projected to be a solid defender based on size and athleticism
Only 22 years old
Not known as a good jump shooter
Elliot Williams is somewhat of a wild card as he has yet to play in a regular season game due to a knee injury last year. He looks fully healed from his knee now, as evident from his solid showing this preseason. At only 22 years old he is sure to improve and make an impact on this roster in the future, the question is how much of an impact?
Future prognosis (team option for 2013-14 season)
Williams looks to have a fairly high ceiling, and if he improves enough he could be an integral piece to the roster in the future. His play and improvement will dictate just how much the Blazers want to invest into him going forward.
PG. Nolan Smith
High basketball IQ
Good pick and roll operator
Solid outside shot
Good size for point
Not much upside
May struggle to get to the rim at the NBA level
May not be fast enough to defend other quick guards
Nolan Smith had a solid campaign at Duke, but subpar athleticism may hurt him at one of the most athletic positions in the NBA. He does not project to ever be a starter unless he becomes a lot better with the ball in his hands and a proven defender. Smith could prove to be a solid backup, but given his current skill set it will be hard for him to compete against other starting point guards in this point guard driven NBA era.
Prognosis (team option 2013)
If Nolan Smith gains a niche within the team, or defies expectations and becomes a solid starting point guard he could very well be here to stay with the Blazers. However most bench players can get easily tossed aside if the asking price is too high or if they find another team that offers them more incentives. That being said it is much too early to tell if or how Nolan Smith fits into the Blazers plan.
PF. Craig Smith
Good finisher around the rim
Can shoot floaters
Short, and not very well conditioned
Does not rebound
Not a very effective shooter outside of 15 feet
Craig Smith is a solid bench player, but nothing more than that. He is very crafty around the rim, as he shot over 55 percent around the rim throughout his career. He is an average defender, but is overmatched against most power forwards. He won't get that many minutes in the rotation unless an injury from other teammates dictates it. He is a good body to have around that won't hurt you, as long as you use him in the right situations.
Future Prognosis (signed through 2012 season BAE)
Most likely Craig Smith will live out his contract and the Blazers will let him go. He is not good enough to stick with a team for a long period of time. He could be used as a filler in a trade down the road as well, but most likely Smith is not in the long term plans as a Blazers.
C. Chris Johnson
Good shot blocker, above average rebounder
Good pick and roll defender
Offensive game is horrid
No strength, gets pushed around easily
Fouls a lot
Chris Johnson became a fan favorite with his impressive blocks against Dallas during the playoffs. He is a very good pick and roll defender, and can rebound fairly well. His foul rate is very high though because he goes for a block every time. His offense is virtually non existent, his shots come from offensive boards or an occasional layup. In reality the closest comparison is a poor man's Marcus Camby.
Future Prognosis (free agent in 2012)
If Johnson shows he can compete on a high level with other big men he could be a good backup center, but other teams seem to also be high on Chris Johnson (Celtics). Given how high teams are on big men through the league he may get a higher offer from other teams that the Blazers don't want to compete with. He could also be a candidate that could be used in a trade as a filler. Blazers could let him go next year as they will have more cap space to get something better than him in free agency, but never count him out to re-sign either.
PF/C. Kurt Thomas
Sets good picks
Nice mid range shot
Good Basketball IQ
Easily outmanned against big men
Little offensive game
Kurt Thomas is a very good pickup for Portland as he will provide depth at the PF/C position that won't hurt you. He does not take shots he knows he will miss and is a good team defender that is not afraid to take a charge. His good screens will help set up teammates for open looks. It is a low risk, low reward signing that will help bolster the team's depth.
Future prognosis (partially guaranteed in 2012)
The Blazers got Kurt Thomas by offering some guaranteed money for next season. This was the only way the Blazers could get Thomas to leave Chicago. If Thomas turns out to be of no help to the Blazers they can easily waive him before next season. But at age 39 Kurt Thomas is at the end of his career.
SF/PF. Luke Babbitt
Too small for a Power Foward, too slow for a Small Forward
His shot has not translated to the NBA level
A defensive liability
Poor Luke Babbitt. He is a shooter who can't shoot, and he can't defend - at least at the NBA level. In the d-league he tore it up, but when it comes to the NBA it does not work for him. Hopefully he shows some signs of improvement that can warrant more playing time, as of now it does not look he will get much playing time if he can be a positive force on the court.
Future Prognosis (team option 2013)
Unfortunately Babbitt's play makes it appear he will be long gone when his contract expires. The Blazers hoped for great things from Luke Babbitt, but he just does not fit with this team. Sorry Babbitt, you will either be traded or let go when your contract expires.
PG. Armon Johnson
Decent ball handler
Can drive effectively
Poor outside shot
Weak right hand
Armon Johnson is a very skilled defender, but on offense he has a difficult time seeing the floor and running an offense. He can drive fairly well, but most of the time he drives right into a defender and will get caught up in traffic. He could develop into a solid backup option at point guard, but it looks like Nolan Smith has already taken that role.
Future Prognosis (2012 Free agent)
After this season it would be surprising to see Armon as a part of the Blazers for a few reasons: Nolan Smith is clearly a more capable point guard than Armon Johnson, and Johnson has not proven to be an effective point guard at all. This will most likely be the last season Armon will be a Blazer.
C. Greg Oden
Dominant post player
Fairly mobile for a guy his size
Foul and turn over prone due mainly to being uncoordinated
Needs improvement with footwork in the post
A healthy Greg Oden would have had a few all-stars by now. That is just how good he could be. Knee injuries have derailed his career so far. A healthy Oden would easily be a top 5 center in the league and possibly the second best one behind Dwight Howard. This is what makes Oden's injuries all the more sad for the Blazers as he would most certainly boost the Blazers into contenders. The hope currently is that he comes back in time for the playoffs.
Future prognosis (free agent in 2012)
The Blazers are in a tough position. They could let Oden go, only to see him become dominant for another team (Jermaine O' Neal), or could keep him long term in hopes than he can put one healthy season together (Bill Walton). The hope is the Oden will come back at least part of this season and make it easier on the Blazers to sign Oden long term, unless Oden wants to leave. If Oden wants to leave there is no stopping him. In reality it is Oden's decision, but it is clear that the organization still has Oden in their plans for the future. After all Oden is only 23.
The Blazers this year are in a state of flux. They are most certainly good enough to to get to the playoffs, but looks like they could easily get bounced out of the first round if the matchup does not favor them. Despite the front court helped signed in the offseason the center position remains the weakest. The Blazers may win many games this season by running faster than everyone, but it won't help in the playoffs. The Blazers need a big man to anchor the interior defense like Tyson Chandler did for Dallas last year. If Oden comes back in time it could be a big help, but the Blazers should not rest all their hopes on Oden. The floor spacing and team chemistry will be the best seen in years due to the lack of iso and a point guard who can shoot outside. The Blazers are certainly deeper this year, but that does not always translate to more wins in the playoffs. It really hinges on how much the starters step up. If Aldridge plays his absolute best in the playoffs on both sides of the ball in the playoffs the Blazers will get out of the first round.
Sound off on how good you see the Blazers this year. What seed do you see them taking this year? What do you envision the Blazers doing in the future?