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2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Portland Trail Blazers Preview

October 17, 2008 | By Daniel Olson | comment on this post

The 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit just keeps on coming, today with Daniel putting the talented Blazers under the microscope.

For a team that nearly made the playoffs last season, you would think that one or two big changes would be made in order to get over the hump in the uber competitive Western Conference. But the Blazers really did not need to make a huge splash via free agency or trade. Why, you might ask, did Paul Allen’s club essentially stand pat? That would be the return of a healthy Greg Oden for what will be his rookie campaign after missing all of last season with arthroscopic knee surgery and the trade on draft day to acquire the number 11 overall pick (Jerryd Bayless) and Ike Diogu from the Indiana Pacers for the draft rights to Brandon Rush, plus Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts.

The Blazers, who finished 10th in the West last year, are being led by their defensive-minded coach, Nate McMillan, who helped the team limit their opponents to only 96.3 points per contest last year, sixth best in the West. And with the highly anticipated debut of Oden in the middle, expectations are running higher than ever for the team once referred to as the Jail Blazers and now maybe referred to as the Baby Blazers. But you won’t catch many teams being able to steal candy from these babies.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Steve Blake
SG: Brandon Roy
SF: Travis Outlaw
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Greg Oden

Key Bench Players: Joel Pryzbilla, Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, Channing Frye

Position Battles

While Blake has proved to his naysayers that he can compete at the NBA level despite his slender 172 pounds, he will be pressed hard and early by the rookie sensation Bayless. The Blazers did not make the draft day trade for Bayless to let him rot on the bench so expect him to get quality minutes early on with a jump to the starting lineup inevitable at some point in the season.

Another semi battle to look out for might be Outlaw and Webster. Webster has yet to play in the pre-season and is expected to miss eight-to-10 weeks due to surgery on a stress fracture in his left foot. Outlaw, who has shown flashes of brilliance, will start in Webster’s absence and it might be tough for Webster to regain the starting SF position.

Stud: If Roy can stay healthy throughout the course of a long 82-game season, the Blazers will be right in the playoff hunt. He has shown that he was the steal of the draft two seasons ago and his versatility to do a little bit of everything will help immensely. Not only did he score 19.1 points per game last year, but he dished out 5.8 assists and pulled down 4.7 boards per game, an impressive total for a guard. With this being Oden’s first true season, Portland will need Roy to help show the big boy the ropes and feed him down low.

Dud: Joel Przybilla was fantastic in the second half last year, averaging over 11 boards per game, but he has too many holes in his game for fantasy purposes and with Oden around to steal his thunder, there’s not much point in owning this big man.

Sleeper: Guard Rudy Fernandez could be a key factor as a backup for the Blazers. At 6’5”, he showed the ability to hit the jumper and take it to the hole in Spain where he had a great deal of success. Injuries in preseason have slowed him down, but keep your eyes on him as the year progresses.

Rookies to watch: Bayless and Fernandez could come through big time in the backcourt this season. And don’t forget about that Oden dude; the Blazers could very well have be best rookie threesome in the league.

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