As a Blazers fan, it's nice to see Houston giving the Lakers so much trouble. It means that Portland didn't roll over and die, but rather that Houston is just an incredibly underrated and gritty team. It also means that the Blazers truly did get a very tough first round draw, and I still lament that the Hornets couldn't hold a 5 point lead with 30 seconds to go in the last game of the regular season against the Spurs. Had they been able to, Portland would have faced New Orleans in the first round, and I would bet a lot of money that they would have won that series.
Now that I have that out of the way-
Player Prediction Review
Prediction- 8 ppg, 5 apg, 3.5 ast/to ratio
Actual- 11.0 ppg, 5 apg, 3.2 ast/to ratio
I predicted Blake's season pretty well. I figured he'd be the starter all season, which he was except when he was injured. He had a larger role in the offense than I expected, largely due to his steady three point shooting (42.7%). Once in the half court set, Brandon Roy usually handled the ball, and when there were doubles on either him or Lamarcus Aldridge Blake was often open from three.
Blake is a perfectly capable point guard, and I won't speculate yet whether he is the PG of the future for Portland. He's weak on defense and lacks a dribble drive, but he's also a very good passer and hits the open jumper without demanding the ball. For now it's safe to say he's a key part of this team, but his future isn't guaranteed in Rip City the way it is for a handful of other players.
Prediction- 3 ppg, 2 apg, 40% from the field
Actual- 4.5 ppg, 3.6 apg, 39.2% from the field
Sergio did better than I thought he would, but not by much. He at times would have nights of 12 assists in 18 minutes, and other nights would be 2 assists and 5 turnovers in the same amount of time. Sergio did do well enough to snag the backup PG position, which I didn't see coming, and I can in no way argue with that decision. He competently ran the offense much of the time, even if he can't shoot for crap. Also, his chemistry with Rudy Fernandez is that of multi-year veterans (which, if you include their time together in Spain, they are).
I'd still be very, very surprised if Sergio is back next year. His defense is awful and his shooting is worse. In an up tempo system he could do much better because he drives the lane and is a very good passer, but in Nate McMillan's controlled offense he is a square peg in a round hole.
Prediction- 10 ppg, 4 apg, 3 rpg
Actual- 4.3 ppg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 rpg
Bayless' season was largely limited due to Sergio's slight improvement. The rookie was also plagued with poor decision making and an inability to hit an outside shot. But he's a rookie with one year of college experience, and there's no denying the potential. He flashed it in a stretch of games when Blake was hurt. While he didn't start, he got significant minutes and usual scored in double digits.
Jerryd's biggest problem is that he was a scoring guard at Arizona and Portland needs him to be more of a pure point. He needs to learn the NBA game better. He is terrific at getting in the paint and finishing at the rim, and also shoots a solid 80% at the line. He also has the physical attributes to be a good defender. Basically, it's too soon to make any major judgement calls on Bayless, though next year he should earn more minutes and show what he's capable of.
Prediction- 18 ppg, 6 apg, 6 rpg
Actual- 22.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.7 rpg
I knew Roy was good. I didn't know he was this good. Since he went to four years of college, I sort of figured he had about peaked last year when he scored 18 a game and was an All-Star. I also expected him to defer more, but instead he went the other way and became more aggressive with very positive results. Among his highlights: his hero-bonehead-hero combo against Houston culminating with a 30 footer at the buzzer to win, a 52 point effort (zero turnovers) in a comeback win against Phoenix, a layup at the buzzer to beat the Knicks, and 42 points (zero turnovers) despite being blanketed by Ron Artest and Shane Battier in a Game 2 victory of the first round of the playoffs. Roy was selected to his second consecutive All-Star game this year and was named to the All-NBA Second Team, the first Blazer to do so since Clyde Drexler in 1992.
Roy's biggest weakness is that he sometimes waits too long to take over a game, or that he defers too much when he should take the shot himself. It's a good flaw to have on a team as deep as Portland's anyway. I've said it before and I'll say it again- if Portland does make it to the promised land, Roy will be the one leading them there. In this past season he made the leap from star to superstar, and now Portland is in the palm of his hand. We all expect him to deliver, and the great thing is he usually does.
Prediction- 15 ppg, 4.5 apg, 40% from three
Actual- 10.4 ppg, 2.0 apg, 40% from three
I do believe that I was a bit overzealous in my statistical predictions for Rudy. I knew he'd be coming off the bench, backing up Roy. Therefore I should have figured he wouldn't get much more than the 25.6 minutes a game he did average. His production this year was up and down, but his impact on the game was unquestioned. He moves without the ball, has a lighting-quick release, and possesses a flair for the dramatic (he participated in the dunk contest and got jobbed). For his efforts this season he was rewarded with a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team.
Rudy has two basic shortcomings: he can't create his own shot off the dribble and his defense is suspect. But it's also important to remember he's a rookie and these things are likely to come. What is most important if he is to get more minutes is that he and Roy need to be able to be successful when playing together on the floor, either as a PG-SG combo in a big lineup or a SG-SF combo in a small one. Regardless, Rudy is a key member of the team and I'm excited to see what new facets he adds to his game next year.
Actual- 5.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 76 starts in 79 appearances
To say that I sold Batum short would be a gross understatement. When projected Martel Webster went down with a broken foot in the preseason, Batum was forced into the active lineup despite a God-awful summer league performance. And when Travis Outlaw proved to be ineffective as a starter Batum was the only other real option. At first his starts were by necessity, but eventually is was clear that he was the best perimeter defender on the team and usually was put on the opponent's best wing player with relative success. He also was a respectable three point shooter (36.9%) and showed remarkable grace and finishing ability in the open court.
Some extremely optimistic Portland fans are hailing Batum as the next Scottie Pippen. I'm a little more conservative and say his ceiling is Tayshaun Prince or Shane Battier (still not exactly shabby). If Batum can become a better three point shooter and simply grow up a little (he's only 20), he may become a cornerstone to this franchise.
Prediction- 12 ppg, 4 rpg
Actual- 12.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg
Woo. I just about perfectly predicted Outlaw. Not that that is any real accomplishment, because his game is incredibly predictable. Outlaw was the third leading scorer on the team, the #2 option behind Roy in the 4th, and at times the best player on the floor for either team. But if his jumpshot isn't falling, he's basically worthless because he is unsure of himself when driving, he isn't an effective rebounder, and his defense is mediocre at best. Nonetheless, when the jumpshot is on he is virtually unguardable because his release is so high, and often when the offense is stagnant he is the one that pulls the team out of the rut.
Outlaw finished 3rd in the 6th Man of the Year voting, but he also was basically a no-show in the playoffs, only scoring 9 ppg on 31.8% shooting. My view for some time has been trade Outlaw before his value dips when people realize he's reached his ceiling. Blazer fans point out he's only 24, I point out he's a 6th year pro. He's done growing, trade him and allow Rudy more minutes.
Prediction- 9 ppg, 3 rpg, 40% from three
Actual- 5 minutes played on the season
Webster experienced a lost season this year. He only managed 5 minutes the whole season due to a stress fracture in his foot, which is really too bad. Portland could have used him against the Rockets in the playoffs. The silver lining of Webster's absence is that it allowed Batum to blossom. The downside is that Webster trained like hell in the offseason to become a great player and never got a chance to show what he was capable of.
Prediction- 19 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Actual- 18.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, .95 bpg
I expected Aldridge to become Portland's #1 offensive option this year. I expected him to make the leap from good player to star. I also hoped that he would become more aggressive down low and crash the boards. Instead, Aldridge made some minor tweaks to his game but was more or less the same player as the year before. His scoring went up by .3, his rebounding down by .1 while his field goal percentage remained exactly the same at 48.4%. This isn't to say Aldridge was a disappointment. After a terrible start to the year he came on strong in the second half of the season as he always does, and was strong in the playoffs, averaging 19.5 and 7.5 despite often facing double teams from Louis Scola and Yao Ming.
Aldridge's greatest weakness is his lack of offensive aggressiveness, though that certainly became less and less of a deficiency as the season wore on. His inside game improved, now it's a matter of knowing how to deal with double teams and continuing to take it inside even if the outside shot is falling (he has a great 18 footer, but when it's falling that's all he shoots. He should use it to set up some running hooks, which is becoming a staple of his game). Overall Aldridge is clearly the #2 guy on the team, though I doubt he'll ever overtake Roy as #1 now. Still, he's a near-lock for future All-Star appearances and is a major, major part of the Blazers.
Prediction- 6.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2 apg
Actual- 4.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, .4 apg
I knew Frye had limitations. What I didn't know was how severe they were. The biggest problem with Frye is that he is a homeless man's Aldridge- he loves his jumper and that's about it. Last year when he got minutes he showed promise, but with Aldridge, Greg Oden, and Joel Przybilla take the bulk of the post minutes and Frye being a F/C, there just aren't a lot of chances for Channing. He's a great guy, but that isn't what counts on the floor. Frye had 19 DNP-CPs and rarely played more than 15 minutes in any game. He just doesn't fit in Portland.
It's all but certain that Frye is gone from Portland, as the team is unlikely to pick up his team option and some other team would be a good fit for him and willing to offer at least a MLE for him. Frye's character was key in helping remove the Jail Blazer image, but that's about the extent of his contribution to the Blazers.
Prediction- 4 ppg, 3 rpg
Actual- 1.4 ppg, .9 rpg, traded to the Kings at the deadline
Diogu was a scrub, through and through. He did however perform better with the Kings, averagin 9 points a 4 boards in only 14 minutes a game. Maybe he should have been the backup PF instead of Frye?
Actual- .5 ppg, 1 rpg
Ruffin was acquired in the Diogu trade, and wasn't even the best part of the deal (a trade exception was). He probably won't be with the team next year. Farewell McRuffin, we barely knew thee.
Prediction- 3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Actual- 5.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Joel was simply a rock for the Blazers this year. With Greg Oden enduring pretty severe rookie struggles, Joel stepped up and more than capable filled the center position, starting 43 games and appearing in all 82 for the first time in his career. In fact, in terms of rebounding rate Joel was amongst the best in the NBA. He also knew when to shoot (dunks, layups, putbacks) and when not to shoot (all other times he had the ball). He was a rock on defense, a beast on the boards, and welcomed the role of "Enforcer," bringing a whole knew level of intensity and aggressiveness to Portland.
Joel's shortcomings are well documented- he's severely limited on offense (not really a bad thing since this allows Aldridge to do the bulk of the post scoring) and his temper can lead to some bad decisions (though they more often than not fire up the team). One could easily make a case that Joel is the second most important Blazer behind Roy. His future in Portland is secure.
Prediction- 11 ppg, 11 rpg, 2.5 bpg
Actual- 8.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg
I could write a book on the story of Greg Oden's rookie year. He wasn't nearly as consistent as anyone hoped. He had some major problems staying on the floor, partly due to foul trouble and partly due to injury. When he was on the floor he found himself out of position alot and also seemed to lack confidence on both ends. Furthermore, he didn't seem to possess many offensive weapons, though he still was double teamed nearly every time he got the ball down low.
Okay, now for the positives. For starters, when he's on, he's on. All he needs is confidence a lot of the time and he dominates. There were plenty of flashes of greateness. There was a 13 game stretch before the All Star break where he started rounding into form, averaging 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds. Oden is also a fantastic rebounder on both ends (especially offense), and overall when he gets minutes he produces.
Missing 21 games isn't unusual for a center, so I don't consider injuries to be a major part of Oden's problem, though they do mess with his conditioning (which is suspect anway). His greatest problem is fouls. Many people point out that Oden's per-30 averages of 12.4 points and 9.8 rebounds would silence most doubters, but they don't include the fact that Oden's fouls per 30 minutes are 5.5. If Oden is somehow able to cut down on fouls he'll be just fine, I truly believe that is the crux of the matter.
As is, Oden was a disappointment this year. There's no other way to put it. But it's also far too early to call him a bust. He's running out of excuses, but it is far too early to give up on him.
In retrospect it's obvious that I didn't think through my initial predictions. If you add up all the ppg averages the Blazers would have scored 118.5 ppg, which of course is ridiculous. The biggest surprises in my eyes were Nicolas Batum, Joel Przybilla, and Brandon Roy while the biggest disappointments were probably Oden, Frye, and of course poor Martel Webster. As a whole the team exhibited more flaws than I anticipated but yet somehow produced more. The only explanation is that the ceiling is higher than I'd thought.
So that's it for my predictions reviews. As usual, I was wrong more often that right, but still right more often than I expected. And now it's time to focus on Portland's offseason. They have cap room and a GM that knows how to deal, so I would expect there to be some movement on the roster before the start of next year. But I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, I'll just say it's a great time to be a Blazers fan.