It's hard to gauge how much anyone can know about an NBA team in mid-August, and I think that goes double for a young team like the Trail Blazers. You know Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are going to be starters. You know, barring injury, that they'll lead the team in minutes. One will almost certainly lead the team in scoring. But can you really know anything else about the Trail Blazers on August 12, 2009? I'm not so sure.
But Ben York at Dime Magazine does a good job of hedging his bets. In his piece today, "5 Things I think I Know About The Northwest Division," York does some soothsaying that I'd like to beleive.
1. I think I know that the Blazers will be trouble for the Nuggets.I can get on board with just about all of that, with a few qualifiers.
Though the off-season didn’t turn out like many Portland fans thought it would (lost out on Turkoglu, lost out on Millsap) they did address one of their biggest weaknesses which was the PG position. Andre Miller is a very good point guard, and underrated in the more methodical aspects of his game. Steve Blake will be one of the best back-up point guards in the league and gives Portland a much deeper bench, even more so than last year. With a fresh contract extension under his belt, Brandon Roy will break-out to be a top 7 scorer and Greg Oden is poised for a monster year (comparatively). Ultimately, I think the Nuggets win the division, but Portland will give them a run for their money.
First off, the Trail Blazers were trouble for the Nuggets last year, so no reason to think that won't be the case in '09-'10. After all, we did share the Northwest Division Title with Denver. Don't let anyone tell you any different either. It's a co-conference title. Tiebreakers only apply to playoff seeding, not divisional titles. Sorry Nuggets fan.
York's pontification gets a bit robust after that. It's all positive, which is great and much appreciated, but I wouldn't go so far to say I know everything York thinks he knows.
I don't know that Steve Blake is going to be one of the best back-up point guards in the league because I'm not convinced he won't be the starter come next season. I can't wait to see what Andre Miller can do for this team, but I'm not about to bet against Blake. He's been labeled a back-up throughout his entire NBA career, but he always seems to end up in the starting rotation, and he's coming off his best season as a pro. It's certain to be a battle in training camp, but I wouldn't even pretend to have the clairvoyance to know how that contest is going to shake out. One thing I will say though is that Portland will have one of the best back-up point guards in the league. I just don't know which guy that's going to be.
On the topic of Brandon Roy, I think there's a good possibility he slides into the top 7 in scoring. He finished '08-'09 tenth in scoring, so moving up three spots wouldn't surprise me, but I don't see anyone above him on the list having much of a drop off.
If you think about it, the Trail Blazers would probably be better off if Roy's scoring numbers took a bit of a dip this season. The addition of Miller adds some scoring pop at point guard, be it as a starter or in the second unit, which takes some pressure off Roy. Aldridge and Greg Oden taking steps forward offensively lightens the load as well, so I'm not convinced Roy bumping up his average is really necessary. In fact, I hope it isn't.
As for Oden, I agree he's poised to have a "monster year," but it's all now it's all about showing it on the court. Being poised isn't going to be good enough. Not this season. I know that.
I also know this offseason isn't over. Kevin Pritchard said he was still looking for ways to improve the team before the opening tip of the upcoming season, and I've got faith that he'll achieve that goal. I doubt it will be anything groundbreaking, but there are surely a few minor tweaks yet to be made.