So, so, so...it may still be the 2010-2011 season with the Blazers holding out hope that their newest part fits into the mix and they hang on for the playoffs (at least I hope that they do...lottery schmottery); but, even with this season screaming to an exciting finish I wonder what the future holds. As the team is constructed now there is a serious hole in the front line. The issues that face this team seem different at first glance, but they actually are the same at all but one position, yet obscured by the number of bodies and the perception of talent at another. That issue is depth coupled with longevity.
In the "No Duh!" department, the Blazers don't have a ton of depth up front. One semi-healthy, aging center with who knows how much left in the tank. One remarkably improved, elite power forward anchoring this team for years to come. One really large human being who's greatest asset to this team is a pulse on a 10 day contract. One injured big man with diminishing promise. I see this as the biggest hurdle to future success. Without a decent rotation including at least one more productive 6'10" body for next year and hopefully another obtained towards the trading deadline, Aldridge is going to be worn to a nub, a la BRoy. I admittedly don't possess a thorough knowledge of players across the league and therefore have no idea who that big body would be. I love that McGee kid with the arms like a 747 as a back up center/PF eating large chunks of minutes and running with an up and down second unit, but I don't know how realistic that is. All of the above assumes Oden is not going to be with the Blazers for either health related or contractual reasons.
The only spot on the front line that is secure is the three. With Wallace as your power-small forward (much like Bonzi Wells used to be, as Ahmad Rashad once called him, a power guard) and Batum coming off the bench and playing significant minutes at small forward, maybe PF and maybe a little Pippen-esque point guard (addressed further below) I feel good about that position and only that position going forward.
The two is the spot where I think there is still a lack of depth even though there are three bodies rotating through that position. In the now, I don't envy what McMillan has to do with all these players. Rudy has shown significant improvement over last years depression fueled disappearance and has, with his stellar play, allowed Aldridge to operate inside. His shooting and play making have not only opened the floor by negating the threat of a double team on LA, but they've also carried this team on more than one occasion and, if you look at the games where he hasn't played of late you'll notice how consequential he is in giving everyone from LA to Andre room to operate. So, what to do with him now is equally as important as what to do with him in the off season. Do you keep him and try to turn him into a combo guard, with Matthews and Roy as your primary options at the two. And what of Matthews and Roy? Does Matthews have enough upside to keep him as the long term solution at shooting guard? His handle is suspect, he's inconsistent in all facets of his game except for on ball defense and it's difficult when one of your volume shooters either fills it up with the best of them or turns into a chucker who shoots his team out of the game. If you decide to keep Matthews (if you're being honest, he has a lot of value right now and you'd have to consider moving him), do you start him over Roy? If you move Matthews for a point guard or center, does that make Roy your number one option at shooting guard or would Rudy fill that role? Will Roy be limited to <30 minutes per game for longevity? Can he be expected to play any more than that (if his knees even hold up and allow him to play a good chunk of the season)? I see this as potentially Cho's biggest dilemma.
And finally, point guard...If the Blazers could somehow rest Andre Miller in a hyperbaric chamber for large parts of the off season and potential lockout and decelerate the inevitable decrepitude that comes in one's mid to late 30's and/or get him a healthy dose of what Steve Nash is taking, I would feel good about extending him another couple of years. He's the best point the Blazers have had since Rod Strickland and I'm not sure how they are going to fill his shoes with Patty Mills' tiny feet if they let him go. I can't express enough how important he is to this team's success and I shudder to think what will happen when he goes away. That said, I am assuming that he will go away and I don't know where to begin to look for a competent replacement. Patty Mills has turned out to be much, much better than I thought he would be. He's quick as all git out, a dead eye from long range and adept at getting to the rim and finishing. He's also a bit of a defensive liability and will never, ever stand up to the likes of Russell Westbrook and other power point guards. Thankfully, there aren't a ton of those to go around. But still, he doesn't feel like a long term solution to a definite problem. Two thoughts I had, which are mentioned above, are putting your backup point guard duties in the hands of Rudy and possibly Nic. Rudy because he sees the floor so well and Batum because he creates a matchup problem for other teams. The downside to Rudy is the amount of dribbling he does, his proven inability to break quicker, stronger guards down and get to the middle with the ball in his hands (he's great when he's on the move, for sure) and the idea of Batum at point is a sort of personal fantasy and I don't know if it has any basis in reality.
Exacerbating all of this is the difficulty in getting a free agent who hasn't yet played in Ptown to agree to sign on for the wettest winters, the most travel and darn near the deadest night life in the NBA. Hopefully there is a center and/or a point guard out there who likes hiking in a rain soaked forest, food carts, art galleries and independent book stores. On top of that, you have an owner who has given the GM about as much autonomy to make trades as a parent might give a six year old with a box of matches on the Fourth of July.
This all makes me very nervous for the future (and assumes that the CBA will be worked out in time for some sort of a season next year), but it keeps me interested at the same time.