Amid all the talk about acquiring talent to fit around our current keystone players it's been obvious that opinion is divided somewhat on those very players. The most intriguing question that came up this week in that vein involved what kind of players Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge would become.
I definitely think Brandon and Lamarcus will become superstars, but I see them more as thinking-man's superstars--the kind appreciated by true basketball aficionados--rather than popular-level superstars in the mold of Kobe, LeBron, and Shaq. Actually I see a lot of similarities between both players and Rasheed Wallace. `Sheed's exit from Portland was unceremonious but that doesn't change the fact that he was an amazing player. He could score in a variety of ways but still had a definitive go-to move. He played good defense and was versatile enough to defend three positions. He blocked shots. He was a smart and willing team defender. He saw the court and passed the ball well. The one thing he did not do was amass huge statistical games. He was never comfortable being the guy who took all the shots and scored 25 a night. He could do it when called upon, but that wasn't his game. The same was true of his rebounding. He'd fight for them and get them--you didn't really see bad rebounding games out of him--but the boxscore seldom looked amazing at the end of the night. But guess what? Your team won most of the time.
This is pretty much how I see Brandon and Lamarcus developing. I'm not saying their skills or games are the same as Rasheed's. I'm saying I see them turning into versatile, smart, unselfish, excellent team players who work it on both ends of the court. I do not necessarily see either one averaging 25 a night though. Maybe not even 20 most years. I can almost guarantee you it's not going to be in Brandon's makeup to hoist a ton of shots to the exclusion of his teammates. In fact if it ever ends up that he has to on a consistent basis it probably means our team has broken down. I can see Lamarcus being a little more scoring-oriented but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he averaged 18 and not 22 for most of his career. That's not an indictment of either player. In fact I think I prefer them that way! There are advantages to not having five Kobes and LeBrons populating your roster. (Ask the national team.) Actually it would not be a bad thing to have `Sheed-type players (with appropriate size and skills) at every position. You love their games whether they score 13 or 30 on any given night. Also you never have to worry about adding players around them because they have few weaknesses to be covered for and they tend to make everyone around them better.
That, of course, is the big question right now. What do you add to them?
Our most immediate concern is the draft pick. I'd say that if you believe Lamarcus and Brandon are the key players for our future you could add either Oden or Durant without any worry. Oden is going to help almost any team, of course. Nobody minds playing with a dominant center, especially defensively dominant. But there would be room for Durant to take a lot of shots without infringing on his elders' games too. He could be that 25-point a night guy and we'd still be getting full production out of the other two.
A second layer of options comes with the possibility of trading Zach for a piece. The hottest rumors seem to involved big-name small forwards, either existing ones or draftees. If you make the assumption that we take Oden and make the assumption that we trade Zach for a small forward, I think there's still room for somebody to fill that volume scoring role if you can get them. Oden will likely provide reliable scoring but he's yet another player whose contributions are not limited to points. He may be able to become a go-to guy but I don't think he has to. With so much of the lineup so versatile it wouldn't hurt to have a gunner in one of our spots. Plus I don't know about you, but I see a defensive tandem of Oden and Aldridge being very, very scary. Oden covers Lamarcus' weaknesses so well. I am extremely impressed with Lamarcus' ability to defend out to the three point line and yet still rotate back down for the help. On certain occasions he was out there guarding opposing wings and stopping them cold last year. However he doesn't have the bulk to go against true big men in the post. With Oden there he doesn't have to. You've got two tall, fast, defensive-minded players, one who's a beast inside and one who's a devil shutting you down off the dribble or swooping out of nowhere to swat a shot. I can't imagine a more ideal combination defensively. This would cover a lot of weakness in the smaller positions. It leaves room for that small forward to not be a defensive genius. That would have killed this year's team but it may fly just fine once those two get a rhythm together.
Finally, while I have no problem envisioning a gunner in that small forward position I also have no problem envisioning him being a hired gun. Not every player on your squad has to be a decade-long core member. If it turns out that Brandon, Lamarcus, and Oden are all core players they--perhaps along with a role-playing point guard--are probably enough. A lot of great teams have had their Michael Finleys, their Adrian Dantleys and Mark Aguirres. If we get a long-term, younger guy like a Rashard Lewis that's fine. But if we stumble through a year with the guys we've got and then go out and sign a veteran for a couple years planning to replace him later that's great too. That's the point. The more solid and well-rounded your core group is the less pressure you have when adding to it. Prior to Tuesday night the idea of bringing someone on board was near torturous because the laundry list of things you'd need was pretty darn long. Now--especially if we select Greg Oden--the list is a lot shorter. That makes the idea of adding people not only more realistic, but more fun. I imagine Kevin Pritchard is feeling a lot like a kid in a candy store this week.
Those are my thoughts anyway. What are yours? Let's assume we do draft Oden and eventually move Zach for another player (not because I think that's what we should do but because that seems to be the way the wind is blowing right now). Have we already got three superstars and all we need is time and some role players? Could we absorb another scorer, even a #1 option, at the small forward position? Who do we need or want to play the three and what kind of qualities/skills should they have?