Sunday, November 16, 2008

A look at the Blazers, ten games in

Ten games (or 12%) into the season isn't much to go on. Whatever, we can take a look anyways. From what we have seen, things are looking very good overall. But as always, there are some concerns.

Considering Portland's strength of schedule, six wins is something to be proud of. The Blazers have victories over San Antonio, Houston, Minnesota (twice), Orlando, and Miami. The losses come from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Utah, and New Orleans. They have also won five out of their last six.

Go ahead and be ecstatic over Rudy Fernandez. Rookie of the Year may not be enough, if he continues to contribute like this and the Blazers land in the playoffs he would be in the Sixth Man conversation as well. As of this posting, Rudy is #25 in the League in PER. That is better than any other rookie, and second on the team only to Brandon Roy.

Another massively positive development has been the solid play of Greg Oden in the last two games. After all the injury-induced hysteria, nothing calms the nerves like watching Oden make solid contributions over the course of an evening. In his last two games he has averaged 12 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in 24 minutes. If he keeps this type of production up...well, it really won't be fair for the other teams.

It is getting harder not to take Brandon Roy for granted. There is the novelty of the new guys to draw your attention, and he is so consistently brilliant you kind of just expect it. Never forget how much he does for this team. It was an amazing moment when Roy spoke to the Oregonian about how he was turning the ball over too much. You could tell it truly bothered him, as if he wasn't playing well enough. Ten games in, Roy is averaging just 2.2 turnovers per game in spite of handling the ball extensively. Roy standards are different than regular standards.

As a team, I was surprised to see the Blazers ranked third in the NBA in offensive efficiency. The bad news is that the Blazers rank 25th in defensive efficiency. They still give up more points than they score, but the opening night Lakers blow-out is still having a big influence on that statistic.

An alarming Blazer trend is that 74% of their shots are jumpers. For comparison, the Lakers are at 61%, and the Celtics 64%. Can you be an elite team if you rely so heavily on the jump shot? Conventional wisdom would suggest not. Then again, I always want to stab people when they invoke the worn out addage "live by the jump shot, die by the jump shot." We will see.

The Blazers could also have personnel issues coming up. Not the kind the franchise used to have, the good kind. The kind where you have so many good players its hard to let them all contribute. Sergio already spoke out. Martell will be returning, and he averaged 28 minutes a game last season. Do you send Batum to the bench? Make a trade that could free up minutes? Who do you get rid of? Or do you just wait and do nothing for now? I'll be waiting with you to find out the answers.

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