Sure it might be a slow week but I've found some excitement: it looks like we'll have a nice little battle between John Hollinger and Kevin Pelton to see whose computer will project Greg Oden to more ridiculous heights this season. We'll get to that in a minute.
First, here's the concept. Scratch that. Actually I'm not sure what the concept ESPN's Chris Broussard is working with here, other than it's a list, the word "buzz" is involved and the Blazers place 7th out of the 30 NBA teams. Utah, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and San Antonio trail the Blazers so this feels like a good thing. Broussard writes...
The more things change: Besides their draft picks, headlined by promising forward Luke Babbitt, the Blazers haven't done a ton this offseason. They added 2-guard Wesley Matthews, who made a name for himself with his surprising rookie play last season in Utah, and they're likely to lose Rudy Fernandez, the athletic wing who's demanding a trade or a return to Europe (anything but another year in Portland!). Those additions/subtractions mean little and won't move the Blazers' needle up or down much. But there's another addition coming in the form of 7-footer Greg Oden. After missing all but 21 games last season with yet another major injury, Oden is expected to be healthy for the start of this campaign. If he can play a whole 82 games -- and play them well -- the Blazers could be the best of the rest (besides the Lakers) in the West. Oh, and there's been a shake-up in the front office, with Rich Cho leaving Oklahoma City to replace Kevin Pritchard as GM. Cho hired the capable Bill Branch (formerly of OKC) and Steve Rosenberry (formerly of Atlanta) as his assistant GMs.
The more they stay the same: Head coach Nate McMillan is one of the best in the league. He and veteran point guard Andre Miller clashed early last season before eventually making peace. Despite that well-publicized beef and all the injuries, the Blazers still won 50 games. With McMillan and Miller on the same page, the Blazers, if healthy, will be dangerous.
Buried beneath that are the following per-40 minute statistical projections for the Blazers starters courtesy of John Hollinger.
I've been doing my best to bottle up Kevin Pelton's early SCHOENE projections for the Blazers so as not to give away the end of his book, but this is putting me right at the bursting point. Privately, KP2 has been feeling pretty confident that no one would out-hype him when it comes to the Blazers and Oden. Now we know where the bar is set.
All that's left now is for Oden to get back on the court.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter
PS I bet you chuckled when you saw that even the computers are resigned to an eternal 18 and 8 from LaMarcus Aldridge.