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Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with a proud franchise making its first appearance in the postseason since 2003: the Portland Trail Blazers.
When you look at this Trail Blazers team, there isn't a really staggering amount of holes. They're young, deep, hungry and versatile and can really attack you from all areas of the floor. They have one of the most underrated players in the league in Brandon Roy and he is the catalyst for a squad that drives to the basket, shoots the three well and can really get hot at any given moment. In Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge the Blazers have two consistent players who can score inside and outside and who really provide the leadership and energy for their teammates to feed off of.
The Blazers are an energy, hustle team that really flourishes playing at home in Portland and that never takes their foot off of the pedal. Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw spearhead a really talented bench and give tremendous energy whenever they step onto the court. Coach Nate McMillan really has this team playing together as a unit, and they know how to attack the opposition and where to attack the opposition. They're very well prepared, so even with their youth and reckless abandon, they're still organized and put their skills to good use. Whenever the Blazers play at home, they're almost unstoppable and they can really put pressure on you to win at home. If they steal a game on the road, they're in prime position when they return to Portland. Also, this team is very good at rebounding the basketball, which helps start off on the breaks for the offense and limits second chance opportunities to the opponent.
All things considered, the Trail Blazers don't have a true point guard or a truly dominant center. Greg Oden has fought injuries for two seasons and still doesn't look like a very effective post player, although his presence on the defensive end of the floor can really affect opponents on their drives to the basket. However, he's proved to be just average on offense and although he's not a liability, he's far from an asset with the offense is set into motion. Joel Przybilla is basically the same story. He's fantastic at rebounding the basketball and playing defense, but they're not going to go to him in crunch time and expect points in the paint. That wouldn't be a problem if Aldridge didn't fall in love with the jump shot as often as he does. So many times he forgets that he's needed under the basket, and teams can really cut off his moves to the paint and force him to be a jump shooter. Then, it's just a matter of if Aldridge is on or not.
Steve Blake is solid, but he's not going to blow anyone away at the point guard position. Brandon Roy is more effective with the basketball anyways, so this hasn't been a problem as of yet for Portland, but teams will really attack Roy in the postseason and the onus will be on Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez to not be liabilities out on the floor. They're going to be relied on to hit big three pointers and Blake has shown that he can do it (even being the starting point guard on a Denver team that went to the postseason a couple of years ago). Also, youth and inexperience can pose a huge problem for Portland. As always, there seems to be a learning curve in a team's first season in the playoffs. That doesn't mean a series victory or two is out of the question, but usually teams have to learn how to win in the postseason and nobody on this squad has any experience at being successful in the postseason. So that could pose a problem when the squad is on the road and in tough situations in the postseason against teams that know how to win on an opponent's home floor.
Why They Will Win It
The Trail Blazers play a fun brand of basketball and have depth at every position. They're young but they're hungry and they can play an up and down style of basketball and even have the shooters to succeed in a half court game. They like to dictate the pace, but if push comes to shove and they can't, they won't be knocked out of contention because they can settle down and match up with what the other team is bringing to the table. Brandon Roy is a huge asset in close situations, and the Blazers have a star that they can turn to in crucial situations of close out games. That's a huge asset that a lot of teams just don't have.
Why They Won't Win It
Experience will be the biggest hurtle for this squad. With inexperience comes a perceived lack of ability to win on the road and people just assuming that you will struggle in close situations. The fact that the Blazers may become jump shooters could hurt them in the end, as a developed Greg Oden would be huge this year. However, that's not the case and the Blazers may become overreliant on the jump shot. Also, they have a tendency to struggle on defense in spells and that could really come back to haunt them in the postseason.
The talent is there in Portland for a big run and they could win a playoff series or two without surprising anyone. However, they need to experience that learning curve like every other team does and inexperience may do them in in the postseason. Top to bottom this is one of the deepest teams in the league but struggles on defense and in other team's home courts may prevent Portland from making a serious run at a championship. They're a team on the rise and this year could be a year of surprises for fans in Portland (who really deserve it), but the Trail Blazers are still a year of growth away from having the Larry O'Brien Trophy being a realistic end goal.
Coming up next: the Utah Jazz.