What an offseason for the National Basketball Association especially for the Portland Trail Blazers! First it appeared there wasn’t going to be a season, then Brandon Roy announced his retirement due to injury, LaMarcus Aldridge had a heart procedure and Greg Oden was re-signed, yet his contract was changed due to concerns from his previous injuries. One would believe with all that adversity facing the Trail Blazers that the team would be in disarray and would not be among the top teams in the Western Conference and that could be further from the truth.
The Trail Blazers made a great move in June to acquire point guard Raymond Felton in part of a three team trade with the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. By acquiring Felton it gave the Blazers a much needed upgrade over the aging Andre Miller and with his addition the Trail Blazers starting lineup becomes one of the better ones in the NBA.
For head coach Nate McMillan his lineup is that of Felton, Wesley Matthews, Gerald Wallace, Aldridge and the recently signed Kurt Thomas normally Marcus Camby would be starting for the Blazers, yet due to an injury it will be Thomas in the starting lineup. The bench for the Trail Blazers include the recently signed Jamal Crawford, Nicolas Batum, Craig Smith and Oden.
What McMillan has done is create a solid system in Portland and though it’s not pretty it gets the results. The Trail Blazers aren’t going to put up triple digits in points and ranked 24th in points per game, defensively is where the Trail Blazers get it done as their defense ranked seventh in points allowed.
Before the injuries took their toll on Roy he was the Trail Blazers’ best scorer that role now belongs to Aldridge. Yet, as mentioned the Trail Blazers are not known as a high scoring team though that should change with the versatile Wallace, Felton and of course Crawford. An interesting fact on Crawford is if he scores 50 points in a game with the Trail Blazers he’ll set an NBA record for accomplishing that feat with five different teams. In his career he has hit the 50 mark with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks. Crawford was brought in to provide scoring for this Trail Blazers team.
A major concern for this Trail Blazers team though is their lack of depth, if Aldridge were to go down the Trail Blazers would have a difficult time replacing his production in the lineup and the same can be said if there’s an injury to Wallace. If Wallace were to be out Batum could be inserted into the lineup as he’s a great defender, just not known for his offense.
Though injuries are a concern for every team the Trail Blazers should be fine and by utilizing their strong team defense to win games. The Trail Blazers should be one of the sleeper teams for this 2011-2012 season.