The TrailBlazers are riddled with problems, you know it, I know it & our grandparents have known it since 77'. There are only two players on the roster that President Larry Miller commited to calling franchise "building blocks", in LaMarcus Aldridge & Nicolas Batum. The big problem is neither of those two guys can get their own shot or create for others at a high level. Raymond Felton has been the scape goat, but rightfully. He has had the worst year of his career so far & came into the season overweight/unprepared. Jamal Crawford is who he is at this point, instant offense & not much else. Wesley Matthews has regressed after his first couple of seasons in the NBA & unfortunately he has also peaked. We can only hope his shooting percentages rebound in the second half of the season. In essence, the guard play has been horrendous. Gerald Wallace has been Jekyll & Hyde all year, looking like an All-Star at the Rose Garden, yet looks completely uninterested without the roar of the crowd on the road. Though we all have to admit, Marcus Camby & Kurt Thomas still do the awesome things that allowed them to craft two of the longest active careers in the NBA - Respect these years.
This team desperately lacks direction. There are other holes on the team, particularly at starting center- but thats a whole other thread entirely. Besides, this team has had issues with the center spot for years now- yet this may be the ugliest we have performed since the 05'-06' season. Why you say? I think the answer is obvious, it rests in the loss of two players.
Brandon Roy: One of the best isolation players I've ever witnessed, not because he was extremely athletic but because he was the most crafty player I have ever seen. Each move setting up the next & always in control. Great passer & rebounder for his position. Not to mention, he was as clutch as any player in the NBA before his knees gave way. An awful loss for this franchise, but for a while we had a vision that post-Roy may not be bad when this guy came along...
Andre Miller: A true point guard. The best lob passer in the NBA. Dominant against other guards in the post. He carried our team while Roy's knees eroded away. Whenever our offense began to get stagnant, Miller got the team a high percentage shot- the perfect point guard. We traded him away because he was too old & can't hit a 3pt shot to spread the floor... Well it turns out that the guy we traded for not only can't hit a 3, but came into this season as unprepared/overweight as any player so far post-lockout.
After losing both of these guys & seeing how this team is performing now, you can truly appreciate the talent of those players. This team has shown their true colors, its looked like a team without a leader. We need help, we need guidance on the court. That needs to change, we need a lead guard. Every team has one. For evidence of my argument look no further then Jeremy Lin from the New York Knicks, before he emerged they were struggling. No one seemed to be playing the roles they should be & were playing outside of their comfort zone, everyone seemed to have their own agenda. Since then he has taken control of the offense, the players are now being used to their strengths & the Knicks are thriving.
I am sick & tired of watching the every night struggles of the guard play, at times the entire team just looks horrendous.
How do we recover?
There are two ways of thinking going forward:
Here lies the obvious rose colored glasses idea that we could land a proven productive veteran guard. The likes of Rajon Rondo, Andre Igoudala, Monta Ellis,
Andre Miller & most recently to have interest from the Blazers, Steve Nash. A deal of this magnitude would likely require trading Batum, which may conflict the thinking of Blazers management. The odds of pulling a deal like this are slim-none, but not impossible. The idea of pairing Aldridge with another top tier player is enticing, after Roy's prime was ripped away right before LaMarcus hit his stride. Although we all have to agree losing Roy almost forced Aldridge to step up.
This I see as much more likely, because prospects are players who have promise but have yet to prove them selves consistently in the NBA. My thoughts are If we do indeed have to watch painful basketball, we should at least be able to see them as growing pains(Much like Elliot Williams now taking playing time from the other guards). Then we can have something to look forward to in the future, as opposed to another first round playoff exit or an average draft pick. I am proposing that before the upcoming trade deadline, we should acquire prospects who the Blazers are willing to give extended playing time to for the remainder of the season. Best case, we find a gem of a prospect who can be our lead guard going forward & make the playoffs. Worst case is we find out that the prospects don't have what it takes to be starters in the NBA & as a result, we land a better pick for the 2012 draft! Seems like a win-win long term for the franchise, in my opinion.
I will name a few prospects(as the proven veterans seem to be obvious), that could fit here in Portland. Be sure to vote on the poll as to which player you would prefer to be running the Portland Trail Blazers going forward.
Rodrigue Beaubois: Currently playing for Dallas, after two very promising seasons recently it has been reported that they are ready to move on & trade him if the right deal comes along. Most likely because they are going to be focusing on a 2012 free agency run at Deron Williams. He is an outstanding athlete for the point guard position. A good defender, with the potential to be great. He has a sweet handle & can finish strong at the basket for his size too. Hasn't quite developed the true point guard instincts yet, but he is still young after just turning 24 with a small-ish sample size for a player who has been in the NBA for 3 seasons. Well worth the risk. Bringing in Beaubois might make Batum feel more at home/willing to sign here long term.(See Rudy after losing Sergio...). As an added bonus both Beaubois & Batum will play on the French National team during the summers for international competition. The more time spent together on the court = better chemistry.
Jimmer Fredette: Most of you know of the Jimmer. While he hasn't proved it yet in the NBA, he has shown to be an elite shooter off the dribble & in catch->shoot situations. Out of the gym range. Needs to develop as a passer, average/below-average defender. He has the clutch gene, or at least as close as it gets for a NCAA player(yet to prove it at this level). After the Kings new head coach Keith Smart discovered rookie Isiah Thomas, Fredette has fallen to the wayside. I personally think the Jimmer could be a Monta Ellis type of player, at the very least a Steve Kerr/John Paxson-esqe role player.
Greivis Vasquez: The native of Venezuela has put up a solid production in 23mpg on a bottom of the barrell team in the Hornets. Awesome contract for his production. Great size for the PG spot at 6'6". A below average defender, but I would like to see what he can do with no leash & just let him run a team with good players.
Eric Maynor: A true PG. Had an injury this year but when healthy has looked like a legit player & solid defender. Needs more time. Would love to steal a player from the Thunder & have it come back to bite them in the rear-end. Perhaps has the skills & knowledge of his game to defend Russell Westbrook in a 7 game series. They would probably let him go, considering they drafted Reggie Jackson in the first round in the draft last year.
Eric Bledsoe: Considered a great prospect, but is stuck behind the depth in Lob City. Had a much better rookie season. Clearly needs more playing time to develop. Just so happens we have some available. We would have to be careful not to overpay. With the Clippers being in our conference I don't think they would give him to us for less then a first round pick or a young prospect in return like Elliot Williams. If we give our first round pick away, we have to make sure its worth it in the long run- I'm not sure Bledsoe is worth the gamble.
Aaron Brooks: Whoa now ! This wouldn't require a trade, but he is an exception. After spending a season in the Chinese Basketball Association, Aaron Brooks will likely make a return to the NBA this season. The Most Improved Player in the 09'-10' season, he was traded from Houston to the Suns & just wasn't a fit there. Portland provides an opportunity for him to prove himself, with playing time up for grabs & shot attempts as well. Played for University of Oregon. At this point he can't be any worse then Ray Felton & best case he could be like a modern day Dana Barros(on the Sixers).
Jerryd Bayless:ah ! Thats right. We would be better off with Bayless instead of Ray Felton- I said it. At least he tries hard. Bayless's contract expires at the end of the season, we would have a good a chance as any team to sign him to a reasonable contract.
Josh Selby: Darkhorse candidate. Plush 500k per year 3 year deal. He can get into the paint & score, but needs development as a point guard. Good effort on defense. Essentially a poor man's Bayless.
2012 Draft Pick: Kendall Marshall looks like a Andre Miller/Marc Jackson type. Austin Rivers has huge potential, but hasn't harnessed it yet to warrant a high draft pick. Marquis Teague, brother of Atlanta's Jeff Teague- Could be better then big brother. Damian Lillard/Scott Machado: Two small school prospects who will need prove themselves in the NCAA tournament.