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My long, long, long-time (like over a decade before blogging) Blazer e-mail buddy Eric (no, not that Eric, a different one) wrote the other day with a quartet of questions.  I thought it would make a good mailbag post.  Either the questions might be of interest to you too or you might have different answers than mine.

1. Why do you think Sergio isn't playing more? Do you think JJ could  ever thrive in the role of the combo guard off the bench? Or do you  think the backcourt of the future really is Roy and Webster?

This is the question of the hour for many Blazer fans.  At least 40% of the answer is that he's just not ready for a major role yet.  Defense is an obvious concern.  He looks (and is) fantastic on the break but we don't break all that often nor are we ready at this point to be an exclusively run-and-gun team.  In the halfcourt he stalls.  He dribbles a lot, which eats up a fair amount of clock before we get a play going.  He breaks as many plays as he makes in the halfcourt.  Sometimes it seems even his teammates don't know what he's going to do when he has the ball.  Other teams have learned how to play him, which right now involves a lot of sagging off and daring him to shoot instead of pass.  He's missing a lot of those shots lately.  Plus his decision making (especially pass vs. shoot) seems almost as strained in the halfcourt as it is brilliant on the break.  He passes up shots he should take and takes shots he should pass up.  My guess is that drives Nate crazy in a point guard...or at least confirms his assessment that the guy is young and raw.  From what those in the know say Nate's bar is pretty high for that position.  With Jack and Roy available there's no reason to rush Sergio.

That last sentence also describes the other 60% of the reason you don't see Sergio play more right now.  When we win the ball's usually in Roy's hands.  When Sergio's in the ball's not in Roy's hands because Sergio isn't an off-the-ball, catch and shoot (or create) guy.  The same holds true for Zach.  In order for him to be effective either he has to have the ball or it has to start with him and then move around.  Without that he tends to disappear.  Nate's reasoning probably runs along the lines of "Zach and Roy are more valuable to the team right now than Sergio so they take priority."  Once Sergio learns a few things and the personnel start to reflect his type of game that may change.

As far as Jack goes, I like his game.  From the beginning, though, I wondered if he would be that third guard.  I think he's at his best when he's looking to score aggressively.  It's pretty easy to imagine him filling that role in the second unit a Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson.  I'd far rather see that than trading him unless what we get in return is unbelievable.

It's hard to say what position Webster plays right now.  Certainly he was more effective last year offensively as a two-guard than he has been this year as a small forward but he was also more of a focus last year.  He can't defend shooting guards but then he's having trouble with forwards as well.  A backcourt of Roy and Webster would be huge and rebound well but would also be kind of slow.

2. Speaking of Webster, is he one of these guys that will take 5-6  years to figure it out? In retrospect, do you think we'd be better  off with Deron Williams (who I would have taken with the 3rd pick --  I hadn't seen Paul play, but having watch Williams in the NCAA  tournament, I thought he would be the best guard in the draft). Scary to think of a Roy-Williams backcourt.

I don't see how you could argue not at this point.  Maybe in the future that will change.  I'm not unhappy with Jack and Webster but you couldn't trade those two for Deron.

My only comfort is to think that if we had gotten Williams we might not have been in position to get Roy and Aldridge.  I don't think I'd trade those two for Deron no matter how well he's playing right now.

3. Conventional wisdom states you need to have 3 guys to win a  championship, unless you have two superstars, but minimally you need  to have one superstar and 2 all-star caliber players (like Dallas,  SAS, Phoenix, or Miami with Wade and Shaq). With that, I see Roy  being one of those all-star caliber guys, and Zach is certainly  there, but does anyone on the current roster have superstar  potential? Is LA the guy? Or do you take the Piston approach with  having 4-5 all-star caliber players, and no superstar? Or are we  going to be stuck in that spot of perennial playoff team but first round loser year in year out? (that is, with the current roster, and  allowing them to stay together for 2-4 years).

I don't see Zach as having superstar potential but "All-Star" is certainly an apt description of his contributions this year.  The Broadcasting Mikes are starting to insinuate that there's a lot more of Roy's game than we've seen so far, and if that's true he could be scary.  (Then again they have been known to occasionally talk through rose-colored microphones.)  I suppose you'd have to find a final position for Roy before you could make a judgment.  My bet is that "All-Star" is about his level too.  That means we're still in need of a true superstar.  How much do you believe in that 2-4% chance we're going to have in this year's draft?  That'll probably be our best shot in forever.

If we're going to go the Detroit route we still have a long way to go.  As we saw tonight that team is special because every player is multi-faceted.   Pretty much their entire starting five can score, shoot, defend, rebound, play smart, and show some athleticism.  If you look at our roster only Roy clearly fits that bill.  Zach is an amazing scorer but needs to be compensated for on defense.  Maybe Jack could get there someday but his defense and passing need to improve dramatically.  At most that's three, and that's being generous...maybe too generous.  Everybody will say, "Then we only have to draft or trade for two more!"  But "Trade whom?" is the question.  After those three we aren't exactly brimming with blue-ribbon stallions.  Also with the draft you have to find a guy to play the position you want with the talent and skills you need and he has to be available with the pick you've got.  Plus you have to not make a mistake...and everyone does from time to time.  Sure it can be done, but it's probably not as easy as "Two years, two picks and we're all set!"

4. Whose roster would you rather have:  Blazers?  Hawks?  Bobcats?  Hornets?

If you're talking for this year or next year I don't think there's much question that you would pick the Hornets.  But assuming that the world isn't going to end before 2009 I'd go with the Blazers.  The Hornets aren't going to be winning any titles in this decade and I think the future potential of the Blazers is probably higher.  As I mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago as soon as next year Portland is going to become a sexy pick for some of those prognosticators who are early adopters.

--Dave (