It's way too early to do a full preview of the team and its prospects this year, but several people have asked for an opinion on the ramifications of missing Oden. Here's a not-very-coherent list of off-the-cuff thoughts.
--The biggest hole left by Oden's absence will be in our defense. Honestly he was going to change the whole scheme and look on that end of the floor. You were going to see small flaws in almost every other player covered over. It remained to be seen if he could stay out of foul trouble but it was nearly certain that by mid-season he'd be hitting form. Now you really have to worry about our team defense again. If it's mediocre we'll be lucky. A tandem of Frye and Aldridge looks far different than Oden and Aldridge. And every time the smalls let people leak through Lamarcus is likely to be overwhelmed.
--Even with Oden there the Blazers were probably going to run more this year. Now that's a virtual certainty. My guess is that they would have started the year instinctively jamming it in the middle on every offensive possession, trying to take advantage of height and talent in there. Now you have three guys in Aldridge, Frye, and LaFrentz who are eclectic scorers and one guy in Przybilla who just doesn't score. Best guess is deep post sets will decline and wide-open play will be the norm.
--The offensive prospects of several guys are going to improve because of this change. Channing Frye is now going to see tons of time and really get the chance to establish himself. LaFrentz and Przybilla obviously got more minutes. But it goes beyond that. Brandon Roy should be able to score easier with the middle more open. Josh McRoberts might get some time and be able to showcase his ball-moving ability. Steve Blake is probably going to be leaned on harder now because with one wheel off the bus a surer driver will be valued more. Plus somebody--Outlaw, Webster, Frye, Jack--has the opportunity to step up as a third scorer. My money is on Outlaw in that department. I think he'll see a whole lot more shots than he would have otherwise.
Note than I am not saying that Oden stifles or will stifle these guys' games. Eventually they will all acclimate to each other and things will run smoothly. But the game was going to bend around Oden this year in a way that didn't allow as much experimentation with these other guys and they all need the chance to prove themselves and to see where they fit in.
--One guy who probably won't benefit is Lamarcus Aldridge. With Oden drawing attention down low he was going to get some free or single-covered shots. Now much of the down-low pressure is on him and he's going to be double-covered a ton. Also as we said above this will make his defensive duties a lot more difficult.
--I think James Jones and Martell Webster could also suffer, not getting as many clear looks and not being real drivers or shot creators.
--Unless Frye turns into a monster on the glass we're really going to need gang rebounding to be effective. Lamarcus can't handle it all. This could be a serious shortcoming.
--I'm not sure you'll see a ton of difference in the win-loss column. I figure a rookie Oden on such a young team was probably good for a half dozen wins. Now you might see a few extra losses. It's not like we were going to win 50 and now we'll win 20. Probably we were in the 35-40 range and now we might be 30-35, give or take. I don't think we'll be close to being the worst team in the West. We might even surprise some folks if a couple players (Frye, Jack, Outlaw?) blossom. But this is not the year for radical swings either way. We'll probably be a decent team, not really good, but on our way up. Everybody needs to remember what a ringing endorsement this is compared to what we've had to say before the last couple of seasons!
I'm sure there are more but that seems enough for now.
P.S. I did my "Oden Minutes" last night and all went well! As a matter of fact as I was fatigued towards the end of my run when I hit the extra-minutes mark I actually yelled out loud, "ODEN MINUTES!" It worked. Fortunately I was running out in the countryside so nobody heard me and thought I was a terminal dork. (Not that they don't know anyway...) It was an excellent motivational tool. I never even considered quitting. So there you go...Greg's got at least a couple minutes of gruelling fan support behind him already.
Someone wrote in yesterday and suggested that if we can collect enough pics of people doing their Oden Minutes we could create a nifty "Get Well" card out of them. I'm game if you are. E-mail any pics to the address above.
P.P.S. If you're a Blazer Dancer who does barely-clothed yoga send two pics. They probably won't make the get-well card but they'll be in my own personal hall of fame.
P.P.P.S. No, that does NOT include you, Blaze!