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One of the Big Questions

This trio will propel Portland to success in the coming season...or not.
This trio will propel Portland to success in the coming season...or not.

Dave,

Let's get back to real basketball.  What do the Blazers need in order to succeed this season?  If there is a season.  Felton assimilating quickly?  Oden returning sooner rather than later?

Good guesses, especially on the Oden thing.  But that's too obvious and easy.  I'm going to say that the Blazers' fate will be decided by the success or failure of the Batum-Wallace-Aldridge lineup...how well those three end up playing on the floor at the same time.

The glaring hole in the lineup right now comes at center.  Marcus Camby appears to be fading.  Oden isn't ready.  That mandates Lamarcus Aldridge sliding over when Camby can't play.  Gerald Wallace is the obvious cover at power forward, leaving Nicolas Batum at the three.  This lineup saw success last season but didn't get tested enough over the long haul to prove itself viable.

In general I like the defense of this group, especially when bolstered by Wesley Matthews at shooting guard.  There shouldn't be any uncovered space on the floor.  There's scoring potential there but it would be greatly enhanced if the team could run.  Anytime those players are in motion they're going to look marvelous.

The problems come when the game stands still.  Position defense could be an issue, particularly against teams with bulky fours and fives.  There's no shot blocking and little intimidation in the lane.  Rebounding is a major concern.  Wallace will probably have to go out of his brain in the defensive rebounding department to compensate for Aldridge.  That takes Gerald away from the running game, though.  But if he doesn't rebound Portland may not be able to run anyway.  These guys also have to prove they can score in the halfcourt when Aldridge is taken out of rhythm.  Distance shooting could be a key.  I believe Wallace and Batum can hit those shots.  Whether I trust that they will is an open question.

I could see this lineup being Portland's edge, a dynamic attack that less agile teams can't compensate for.  I could also see this lineup getting solved and ending up ineffective for lack of possessions and interior power.  Maybe that'll change night to night, team by team.  Only the first of those three outcomes really leads to Blazer success.  Therefore I'd term this one of the bigger question marks as Portland contemplates the coming season.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)