The Blazers had an interesting year last season. Brandon Roy’s injuries made him a shell of his former self, and 2007 #1 pick had yet another devastating knee injury that caused him to miss a full season. However, the team got a breakout year from LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews backed up his contract, and a mid-season trade for Gerald Wallace invigorated the team’s frontcourt. The Blazers were disappointed when they lost in the first round to the Dallas Mavericks, but that doesn’t look all that bad in hindsight. Here are a few things the Blazers should do next season:
1. Pray for Health
Brandon Roy may never be a top-10 player again, but if he could be anything like the player he was in 08-09, it would help the Blazers tremendously. And at this point, we all know the Greg Oden story — if he’s healthy and can find ways to stay out of foul trouble, he’s a top-5 true center in the NBA who will only get better. But for the majority of his career, he’s been paid to wear a suit. If Oden can get back on the floor and stay there, everything changes for the Blazers. But obviously, that’s a big if.
2. Hope that LaMarcus Aldridge continues to be a star
Aldridge has always been a good player, but last season was a breakout year for him. His PER jumped by a full three points, he averaged 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game, and had an incredible +/- of +14.4 points per 100 possessions. The good news is that Aldridge can get even better if he starts to mix in more drives to the hoop set up by his silky-smooth, high-release jumper and raise his scoring efficiency, which is somewhat pedestrian. Of course, life will be a lot easier for Aldridge if Oden is healthy enough to free him up for wide-open 15-footers or the rest of the Blazers free up the lane to give him some easy dunks, which leads us to:
3. Hope the Raymond Felton era starts well
Andre Miller, who was a wonderful floor general but couldn’t shoot threes or beat all that many folks off the dribble, is gone. Now Raymond Felton is running the show in Portland, and the bowling-ball like former Knick and Nugget has both serious speed and three-point range. If he can run the show successfully and set things up for the ultra-athletic Nicolas Batum and Gerald Wallace and give dead-eye shooter Wes Matthews some clean looks while Aldridge continues to fill it up from the blocks, he team could get a lot better offensively. And if Oden is back to patrol the paint, the Blazers could at long last become serious contenders out west.