We’re 8 games into the season, or just a tad under 10%. My how time flies. What have we learned about Portland’s roster so far? There has been an abundance of speculation, given some of the recent developments, regarding the rotation.
A couple of facts seem to have presented themselves:
1. Ime Udoka is a nice story, and he’s a good filler for now -- but he’s nowhere near a starting-caliber NBA player.
2. Same goes for Stephen Graham. Both these guys are needed due to the team’s lack of small forwards, but neither can be counted on for heavy productive minutes.
3. Martell Webster is ready to play significant minutes; but not starter minutes. He’s a good shooter off the bench, he can score, and he’s starting to put it together, but he hasn’t yet developed the all-around skills to play 30+ per night.
4. Brandon Roy is certainly ready to start, and in four games has already established himself as one of the keys to the team.
5. LaMarcus Aldridge appears to be ready to contribute this season and play significant minutes at both the PF and C positions..
6. Travis Outlaw’s light appears to have turned on.
Given all of this, what will Portland’s rotation look like once they get healthy? We know that Miles is done for the year, and speculation is that all of Pryzbilla, Roy and LaFrentz will be back within the next few weeks. How will the playing time shake out? Let’s take a look.
Post Players. Suppose for a minute that Aldridge is a serviceable big man backup this year. You've got Zbo, Pryz, LaFrentz, Aldridge, Outlaw and Magloire who all need playing time at the PF or C spots. Yes, some are better than others, but given that all are either established veterans or promising young guys, I don’t see how you can give anyone on that list consistent DNP’s. Between the two post positions there are 96 minutes per game to be played. 38 of those will go to Zbo and 25 will go to Joel. Leaving 33 minutes for Aldrdige, Outlaw, LaFrentz, and the Magloire.
Clearly, that's too crowded. What this says to me is that you have to play Outlaw at SF and not PF.
The backcourt and wings. At the point, there are 48 minutes per night. You've got Jack playing 30 per night, maybe more- let's call it 33. That leaves 15 minutes that Roy and Spanish Chocolate can take. At the two wing spots ... SF and SG ... you've got another 96 minutes per night. Roy gets 25 (gotta remember the 10+ per night he's logging at PG), Outlaw gets 25, leaving 46 minutes for Webster, Dixon, Udoka, and Graham. A little bit of a stretch, but I think you can make that happen. Give Webster 20, give Dixon 20, and you're getting close.
PG – Jack 33, Roy 10, Spanish Chocolate 5
SG – Roy 25, Dixon 18, Webster 5
SF – Outlaw 25, Webster 17, Udoka or Graham: 6
PF – Zbo 35, Aldridge 7, LaFrentz 6
C – Pryzbilla 25, Magloire 15, Aldridge 8
That's an 11-man rotation, which is too big. How do we pare it down? I would suggest that the solution to this quagmire is a two-pringed attack: 1. Trade one of your big men – clearly either LaFrentz or Magloire – for an expiring contract that you can stash on the bench. Some might say you already have this in Magloire, but he’s too experienced to treat him that way. 2. Give those Udoka/Graham minutes to either Webster or Outlaw, once they show they can fill out their game a little more. Then you’re looking at a very nice 9-man rotation of Jack, Roy, Outlaw, Randolph, and Pryzbilla starting, with Dixon, Webster, Aldridge, and whichever is left of Magloire or LaFrentz coming off the bench.
I think it’s exciting times for Portland, and I’m not even talking about their fast start. Even if the team goes “thud” over these next two weeks (they’ve got a very tough schedule, and going 2-6 wouldn’t be a shock), they’ve got a direction, they’ve got a rotation starting to fill itself out, and they’ve got a nice young group of guys. There’s a lot to like in Blazerland right now.