Blazersedge Mailbag:  Centers

Dave,

Talking about the Blazers' best case scenario [in the latest VideoCast] I think you failed to address some options that may be available (in addition to signing Lowry):

Play LA at center
Sign J Freeland to play back up center.
Sign and play JJ at the 4.
Babbit backs up JJ as a stretch 4.

--Michael

Though that's a scenario it's far from a best case one.

I think this lineup could work in stretches. You've got some versatility there and the capability to stretch opposing bigs with your range. But there's a big difference between a situational lineup and a full-time rotation. Plenty of teams can throw three-guard lineups on the floor to change up the game. Make those three guards starters and play them 38 minutes each and the opponent is going to find their weaknesses.

Your biggest problem is that LaMarcus Aldridge will not want to play center. He prefers to face up, he's not a great defensive rebounder, he doesn't like to bang. For a 6-minute stretch he can outrun any center in the league. Over 40 minutes he's going to get worn down. That'll affect his play and morale both. He's an All-Star at power forward. He's the best player on your team by far at power forward. Power forward is where you have to keep him unless you have a compelling reason to move him. Fitting in around J.J. Hickson, Joel Freeland, and Luke Babbitt isn't a compelling reason. You make those guys fit around Aldridge, not vice versa.

Joel Freeland hasn't played a minute in the league. He might well deserve a chance to show what he's got but until he's proven himself you can't pencil him into the rotation anywhere. Even though he's 6'10" tall he's going to be more of a power forward than center in the NBA.

J.J. Hickson has had a remarkable run with the Blazers so far and they'll certainly think about re-signing him. Starting at power forward seems like a stretch, particularly beside Aldridge. That's not a good defensive lineup. Hickson would need to add a ton offensively to make up for it. At least he'd rebound.

Babbitt can certainly play some backup power forward but again, here's another fringe rotation player that you're depending on for a solid role. I know what he's been doing lately and I don't discount it but he's gotten the opportunity because other players are absent. Who knows how much the Blazers can rely on him? Again, no track record and obvious weaknesses make this a risk.

So...the steps here are mess with your best player and gamble, gamble, gamble. It seems like a longshot to me.

If the Blazers are going to address their hole in the middle they're going to have to look outside the current roster. Of all their problems to solve, this may be the trickiest. With the right moves I can see them being good with a makeshift center rotation but you don't consider trading lottery picks and spending tens of millions of cap space just to get good. If they're going to stab at a major rebuild this summer they need to get great. That won't happen unless they can figure out a way to revolutionize their backcourt and five-spot at the same time.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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