THE OLD: Von Wafer is now trying to make the Houston roster, James Jones opted out and signed with the Heat, Josh McRoberts and Jarret Jack were traded to Indy on draft day, Taurean Green was also traded, but during the middle of the season.
THE NEW: Where do I start ? Oden, although he was a draft pick last year, is still new to this team as he returns from injury to play his first season. Rudy Fernandez comes off great play in Beijing to join this squad as well. He was traded for last season, but played overseas this past season. Nicolas Batum, from France, was aquired on a draft day trade. As if that weren't enough talent, they stole Jerryd Bayless from Indy, as well as Ike Diogu, in exchange for their original pick (Brandon Rush), Jack, and Roberts. Luke Jackson, Shavlik Randolph, and Jamaal Tatum also join the Blazers this pre-season in hopes of making the final roster (good luck).
THE TRUTH: Portland is now a force in the west. All-star cast. Playoff team. NBA Champs within 3 years, count on it. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiit a minute. I know there's a lot of buzz surrounding these guys and I definitely understand why. They are one of the deepest teams in the league, possible THE deepest. Their team is extremely young, so they have plenty of good years ahead. However, these guys still have to get paid. This year they're set, but what about the next few years? LaFrentz and Francis' huge contracts come off the books after this year, which gives them a big opening. Miles and Przybilla should clear out in 2010 (Joel has an option for 2011). Those are the guys that won't be part of their future, which may be an expensive one. Webster, Frye, and Diogu only have qualifying offers after this season. Outlaw and Blake will be free agents. Oden, Aldridge, Roy and Rodriguez are down to team options for next year. Do they try and wrap up Oden, Roy, and Aldridge long-term early? Do they let Rodriguez go and risk Fernandez feeling homesick after his fellow Spaniard is gone? How much will Webster, Frye, and Diogu settle for? How much cap room do you save to re-sign Bayless and Rudy in 2010 ? Does Rudy even re-sign? Batum is pretty much locked in for no more than 2.1 mil until at least 2012, but if he blossoms along the way, how much do you have left to give him? That's a lot of questins to answer. Fortunately, nothing has to be answered just yet, and that should give the blazers time to see who fits in and who doesn't. I know a lot of fans wish this team could stay together, but I just don't see that happening. Roy, Aldridge, Bayless, and Oden all have almost sure all-star potential. That's 4 guys who all could possibly deserve the max. Other guys may not get the chance to blossom to their full potential with these many players and decide to leave. For now lets just enjoy this team and hope they'll put together a solid season and become the Atlanta Hawks of the 2009 Playoffs.
Here's the projected depth:
Blake- Bayless -Rodriguez
Roy- Rudy - Luke Jackson
Webster- Outlaw - Batum
Aldridge - Frye- Diogu
Oden - Przybilla - Steven Hill
That's a nice starting lineup and solid back up at each spot. Roy's a solid contributor, Aldridge is becoming consistent, Oden will definitely contribute and so will Webster, Blake and Outlaw. I think Bayless is too talented to back up Blake and may eventually win the starting job. However, he's more of a two-guard so keeping him on the bench for a scoring punch isn't a bad idea. Rudy's athleticism and confidence will make him a fan favorite. Batum is too raw and won't be getting much PT. Frye, Joel, and Ike are all solid big men. Jackson and Hill aren't locks to make the team and should pretty much have no effect on the seaso. For now, Blazers' fans should enjoy the youth and talent of this team because they'll definitely provide some highlights and topple some of the best in the league throughout the season, but keep in mind things may not stay the same for long. Of course they'll keep a core of at least Oden and Roy. Aldridge more than likely. After this it gets tricky though. Perhaps they may be able to keep most of this guys since they all have limits on how much they can make and being young guys, that won't be a lot compared to older players of the same talent. Who knows if that's long enough for them to make some noise in the playoffs or even win a ring. Either way, they'll still have a core that will eventually make them one of the best teams around. I'm predicting a playoff spot, but only a 7 or 8th seed, some nice play in the first round, but not enough experience to beat the best in the west.