Portland Trail Blazers ’09-10 NBA season preview

10.15.09 9 years ago 29 Comments

Last year we debuted the “Highs and Lows” system — previewing the NBA season by predicting the respective ceiling and basement for each team. Same theme, different season…

Added: Andre Miller, Juwan Howard, Jeff Pendergraph, Dante Cunningham, Ime Udoka

Lost: Sergio Rodriguez, Channing Frye, Michael Ruffin, Shavlik Randolph

Ceiling: Conference semifinals
This could have gone a lot of ways: Northwest Division title, 3rd seed in the West, second round of the playoffs. However you call it, Portland is ready to take the next step. Last year was about getting to the postseason for the first time with the core group of Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden; now it’s about advancement … Roy is a certified superstar. All that’s left to do at this point is hope he stays healthy (knee problems never truly disappear) and wonder how much better and how much more clutch he can get. After hitting his share of game-winners, cranking out 50 and 40-point games, and getting his playoff baptism courtesy Ron Artest and Shane Battier, B-Roy has to be in the mindset where nothing would rattle him on the court … Aldridge is arguably the best shooting big man in the West after Dirk … Oden won’t be the next Bill Russell like he was originally hyped, but he has the tools to be a future All-Star and has been tearing it up in the preseason … Free-agent pickup Andre Miller has been solid on the court, and despite a somewhat rocky start off it, at least has the full endorsement of Roy. He fits into Portland’s slower-paced system as one of the best decision-makers in the League, and will get Oden and Aldridge lots of easy looks as well as bring an scoring element Steve Blake doesn’t bring … The point guard competition between Miller and Blake is indicative of Portland’s biggest strength: depth. This team has 2-3 quality players at every position (depending on how you feel about Juwan Howard at the four), and is especially deep at the wing spots, where Roy, starting SF Nic Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw should all get significant minutes. Fernandez and Webster can stretch the defense with their shooting, Batum is an athlete built in the Grant Hill mold (current Grant, not Duke-style Grant), and Outlaw is a proven clutch scorer. Oden’s health is always an issue, but when he gets hurt or is plagued by foul trouble, the Blazers hardly miss a beat when Joel Przybilla steps in.

Basement: 5th-7th seed in the West, 1st-round exit
In the Blazers’ first-round series loss to Houston, the supporting cast failed to step up when Roy was being assaulted by Artest and Battier; Aldridge was the only other double-digit scorer, Outlaw choked on the big stage, and Oden couldn’t stay on the court due to foul trouble … So far GM Kevin Pritchard has done a masterful job of building a roster that not only plays well together, but gets along off the court. Now that delicate balance could be in jeopardy. Reports out of Portland hint that Miller isn’t a good fit personality-wise; that aforementioned depth could create a situation where improving young guys have hurt feelings over minutes (e.g. Jerryd Bayless); and remember that Aldridge still doesn’t have his contract extension, a potentially distracting element. (I can’t say I’ve seen it in my dealings with him, but LMA has been called especially sensitive before.) … The Northwest Division and the West in general is so tough, playoff seeding is too crucial; if Portland doesn’t get homecourt advantage in the first round and/or a favorable matchup, it will be tough to avoid an early exit.

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10/14 — Chicago Bulls
10/13 — Golden State Warriors
10/12 — Toronto Raptors
10/9 — Houston Rockets
10/8 — Detroit Pistons
10/7 — Memphis Grizzlies
10/6 — New York Knicks
10/5 — New Orleans Hornets
10/2 — Atlanta Hawks
9/30 — Sacramento Kings
9/29 — New Jersey Nets
9/28 — Denver Nuggets


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