In my previous experiences writing Trail Blazer blogs I've sometimes been a bit too reactionary regarding criticism of the team, especially from those outside of Oregon. The way I see it, there's no way you can accurately pass judgment on a team that you've seen maybe five times over the course of a season, which I imagine is the frequency with which most national media, especially those on the east coast, see the Blazers. That's not to say that they don't have the right to make up their minds based on those limited viewings, but I simply don't understand how those evaluations could be taken all that seriously.
And sometimes, it's probably not meant to be taken too seriously. Case in point: Boston's favorite non-athlete son, Bill Simmons. Two days ago, Simmons penned an article running down a list of trades he would consider, at least that's what I think he was getting at. His first salvo had the Blazers trading LaMarcus Aldridge, the rights to Rudy Fernandez, a first-round pick in 2008 and $3 million in cash to Memphis for Mike Conley Jr., Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and a second-round pick in 2008. Simmons theorized that Aldridge won't be needed when Greg Oden returns and that he "won't ever make the All-Star team" thus rendering him tradable. Trail Blazers fans, as you might expect, largely disagreed.
I won't go into all the reason why I don't think that trade would have made sense, but to claim that having a healthy Greg Oden somehow makes LaMarcus Aldridge expendable is beyond me. The two front-runners in the Western Conference both just traded to add legitimate power forward/center combos to their teams. Did acquiring Pau Gasol make Andrew Bynum expendable? Is Amare Stoudemire destined to be traded because the Suns picked up Shaq? It's an argument that makes so little sense that I feel kind of stupid even addressing it.
As a side note, I try to think of good questions to ask Nate McMillan during the pre and post game availability in the hopes that he won't think I'm a moron. If I'm borderline on whether or not I think a question is good, I don't ask it. Would I ask Coach McMillan if having Greg Oden makes LaMarcus Aldridge expendable? Not a chance. And not only would I not ask Nate because it's a stupid question, but also because I've heard Nate talk about having both those guys on the court together so many times that I already know what his answer would be. That goes back to the point of seeing a team more than a few times each season.
But back to Simmons. Today, he writes about, among other things, the reasons why the afore-mentioned trade could work in a effort to answer the criticism he received from Blazer fans, who he describes as "irrationally devoted." Simmons sets up a few straw men to "prove" his point, the strangest being that Rudy Fernandez (who's a guard, by the way) might not be good because Marc Gasol is the best bigman in the Spanish ACB League. That doesn't make any sense to me. Oh yeah, and Aldridge, at the ripe old age of 22, is only 240 pounds. Kevin Garnett at age 31 weights 253 pounds, by the way.
But here's the part that prompted me to waste the better half of my morning writing this post you are now reading. One of the reasons that Simmons uses to validate his argument is that Mike Conley Jr. is a future All-Star. It wouldn't surprise me if that were true, but Simmons comes to this conclusion despite the fact that Conley Jr. has played in exactly 25 games his entire NBA career. My gut says that's not enough time to properly evaluate a player.
Next, Simmons goes on to say that Aldridge is "not indispensable" because, in 35 minutes a night in his second season, LaMarcus is only scoring 17 points and getting seven rebounds. And the part that seems to disturb Simmons the most is that LaMarcus doesn't get to the line as much as he should. It's a fair criticism. I'm sure everyone, including LaMarcus himself, would like to see him get more trips to the line, but is that really a reason to trade him for a guy like Conley Jr., who in his best month as a pro, averaged 10 points, 5.4 assists, 2 turnovers and 2.4 free-throw attempts per game in 33.9 minutes per? Isn't it much easier to find a 6-1 point guard than it is to find a 6-11 power forward? What has Mike Conley done to make Simmons think he's a future All-Star, and conversely, what has LaMarcus Aldridge done to make Simmons think he's not a future All-Star? Simmons then goes on to say that Aldridge's ceiling is that of 20 points, eight rebounds a night, which in Bill's world is a negative thing. Go figure.
It's foolishness to say that one guy with one year of college ball and 25 games under his NBA belt is a future All-Star, just as it's foolish to claim that a player in the middle of his first full season is not an All-Star. Most players, outside of the superstars, don't even start playing close to their best ball until they've been in the league at least four years. To point to a second year player and say, 'His ceiling is this' shows an extreme lack of knowledge pertaining to development in the NBA. And what's more, it's totally unnecessary.