Consider this an understatement: Portland fans are over the top passionate about their team. The bloggers are no different. When the C's play the Blazers, our comments blow up because the Portland fans stop by to chat. They typically don't cause trouble, but they just descend upon the blog like a swam of bees. Not a complaint, just an observation. Anyway, here's the preview links (a couple days late).
It was a relatively quiet offseason for Kevin Pritchard, quieter than many fans had hoped for. No splashy draft day trades, unless you count the Sergio Rodriguez dump to Sacramento. The true excitement came in a trio of moves and non-moves: the failed courtship of Hedo Turkoglu, the cap-busting toxic offering of Paul Millsap, and the rebound relationship scoop up of Andre Miller.
Last season, Portland was one of, if not the most, efficient teams in the NBA. This season, they should be as efficient plus even more explosive. Andre Miller adds something the team has been lacking for years and that's a point guard who is a match-up nightmare for the opposition. And with Oden showing mass improvements in preseason contests and a lack of proven centers in the west, the Blazers should find buckets coming even easier.
If you haven’t heard, Oden is having a fantastic preseason. He’s in good shape, staying on the floor, displayed better offensive skills and playing more mobile defense. The consensus is that he looks like a completely different player.
As with many teams on the rise, some of the Blazers' biggest strengths are also their biggest weaknesses. Unhappiness with lack of minutes may become an issue as the season wears on. This all comes down to how well coach McMillan can manage his players and their expectations. He has a bevy of fine young players who all want to win, but who will also have one eye on their future careers, whilst the other eye is on the road to the title. The key areas for concern: Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw.
The most significant move of the off-season had to be the acquisition of Andre Miller. The Blazers needed a pass first point guard with experience and Andre Miller provides that. Portland also signed him to a relatively short term deal (two years with a third year option). At 33 years old, Miller is reaching the decline of his career but he hasn't shown any signs of declining numbers yet. His impact will be more than just numbers though, it's his ability to run a team and contribute to an already stacked roster. Andre comes in with a ton of experience on a team dominated by youth.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses? Youth and inexperience. This has been the main weakness for the last half of the decade (aside from that 20-win team, whose weakness was probably just sucking really, really bad), and it continues going forward. Our season depends on the development of guys like Aldridge and Greg Oden. Sure, Oden’s been tearing it up in the preseason, but we still have to see if he’ll do it when it counts. We just don’t know what we’re going to get. If Oden doesn’t play like we hope he can, we’ll be a continual good-but-not-great team, much like the Utah Jazz.