A Serviceable Center is Only Thing Keeping Portland Trail Blazers From Making The Playoffs

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the 2012-2013 season the young Portland Trail Blazers teased their fan base by jumping out to a 20-15 record and holding a playoff seed through the first couple months of the season. Since that start the Blazers have slumped to a 6-16 record and have lost eight of their last nine games. There are two main reasons for their slide; overall youth and the lack of a true center.

While rookie of the year candidate Damian Lillard has been a godsend for the Blazers while averaging a steady 18.4 points and 6.4 assists per game, he is still in his first season out of small Weber State. The Blazers may be leaning on Lillard a bit much in his rookie season. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has been his usual productive self this season and made his second consecutive All-Star team, but without much help to take the post defensive pressure away from him his contributions often go for naught late in the game.

The Blazers are full of solid wing players with Nicolas Batum, Wes Matthews and others, and J.J. Hickson has been a pleasant surprise on the boards this season but Hickson is a free agent this summer and will be seeking a lucrative, multi-year contract that the Blazers may not be willing to cough up. That leaves the Blazers with athletic rookie seven-footer Meyers Leonard, who averages almost as many fouls as rebounds this season. Utah Jazz big man Al Jefferson may be an option for the Blazers this off-season, but only at a bargain rate.

Portland needs to add a quality NBA center and for Leonard to work long and hard at his skills this summer and become a bigger part of their rotation if they want to climb in to the Western Conference’s top-eight seeds for 2013-2014. The pieces are there. All the Blazers are lacking is another inside presence to pair with Aldridge and the sky’s the limit.

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