The NBA Season is ready to start on Christmas Day, the last couple of preseason games are being played as I write this up, and it's time for me to cater to every serious NBA fans love of season previews! The 2011 Geektastic Preview is going to be way too large for one article, so I'm dividing it up into divisions (and even so, it's going to be long, so get a cup of coffee!). In this article I'm going to preview the Portland Trailblazers, who are going to be...well, still pretty good, actually.
The 2011-12 Portland Trailblazers
Lost: Brandon Roy (Retired), Patrick Mills (FA), Rudy Fernandez (T), Andre Miller (T) and ...Greg Oden?
Added: Nolan Smith (R), Jamal Crawford (FA), Craig Smith (FA), Kurt Thomas (FA), Raymond Felton (T) and ...Greg Oden?
Outlook: They're going to be good. They aren't winning the west with this bunch, but they have too many solid players to lose a lot of games, and a genuine superstar in Wallace.
2010 - 2011 PER-48 stats
My first thought early on was that this team was going to have trouble making the playoffs. But then I did a podcast with the James Brocato, Mosi Platt, and Andres Alvarez, and while looking at this roster I was kind of surprised...they have a lot of good players left. And, you know, losting Brandon Roy is a tough blow for the franchise, but looking at the numbers, it's clear that they didn't lose him last week, they lost him last year. His absence isn't going to make difference vs. last year.
Here's the thing: LMA gets all the credit, but the superstars on this team were always Gerald Wallace, Marcus Camby and (2 years ago) Brandon Roy. Aldridge is a reasonably efficient scorer and defender. His volume shooting gives him high scoring totals that fool everybody into thinking he's a star, but he's only a mildly above-average player (and last year was his best year). Thus, the questions for Portland become:
- will Oden ever have a career? When he's been on the court, he's been amazing. That hasn't been often.
- How much does Camby have left in the tank? Both his performance level and his minutes will probably decline; he's 37
- Kurt Thomas? Man, is this the oldest frontcourt ever?
For the record, I don't think Crawford is the answer. Crawford is an average-to-below-average shooting guard who got too much credit for Atlanta's improvement two years ago when the real reason was improved play from Al Horford and Josh Smith (who really broke out, going from .110 in 2009 to .211 in 2010).
Per48 Comparison of raw stats
He probably won't hurt too much, either, though; he'll essentially be at the same level that Brandon Roy was last year. This teamhas quite a few solid players, and the bad ones don't get any minutes so I expect they will win at least 40 games and be a 5-6 seed in the west. It's hard for me to think of 2 playoff teams that they could beat, however, so I think a 2nd-round exit is their best-case scenario.