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Changes Loom as Injuries Continue to Plague Portland

Posted By Brandon Marcus On Jan 30 2011 @ 4:21 pm In Portland Trail Blazers | No Comments

In recent years it appeared the Blazers were building a deep team capable of withstanding the loss of a body or two.  However in just a calendar year they have been decimated from top to bottom and are now inexperienced and thin on the back end, an issue compounded by the flop of the rookie class. As the Blazers hover a few games above .500 in the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture,  General Manager Rich Cho has critical decisions to make about the future of his team in the coming weeks.

Portland’s offensive issues have been encapsulated in the last two losses, most recently being smothered by a well seasoned Celtics team on Thursday night in Portland. They continue to be plagued by injures, losing Marcus Camby to a knee injury and Nic Batum leaving the game vs Boston.

As currently constituted, this team simply does not have enough shooters, scorers or playmakers to make a serious playoff push, and with that in mind you can expect them to active prior to the deadline. They rely heavily upon LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews to give the scoring they need and,  as we’ve seen in the last 2 games, when either has an off night an all-around offensive struggle isn’t just coincidental.

Blazer fans have no delusions about this team, and from the sound of it, neither does Cho.

“This team is an average to a little-above average team, and our record reflects that,” Cho said. “And there’s not going to be any quick fix to make it into a championship team. This is going to be a process.”

Sounds to me like they won’t be making any bold strokes any time soon. On the contrary, it reflects a long-term approach settling in to the brains in the Blazer front office. If that is in fact the view Cho takes, as we’ve discussed, Andre Miller, Marcus Camby and Joel Pryzbilla become prime candidates to be dealt.

They clearly will be looking for a long-term solution at point guard but can’t afford to lose Miller until that is addressed. There is no doubt they need more explosion and range from their lead guard, and while neither is a strength of Miller’s, he’s the best they have right now.

Camby is expected to return in a few weeks from minor knee surgery, while Pryzbilla is still recovering from his own. With all that in mind, nothing is definite, no less imminent, with the Blazers health and resulting depth issues undoubtedly inhibiting them on the trade market.

Outside the starting unit they don’t have much of great value; the bench was worsened by the earlier trade of Jerryd Bayless, and Rudy Fernandez as we know, shows flashes but is wildly inconsistent. He followed two of his better games of the season with 5-21 shooting in the last two losses, and is shooting just %36.6 from the floor for the year.

What this amounts to is the Blazers don’t really have the luxury of making a two or three for one type trade, which hurts their chances of getting a starting caliber player. Portland would love to add such a player to a core of Aldridge, Matthews, and Batum but the sheer numbers preclude it right now. What they can do is try and turn Camby in to multiple players or “assets” as some like to call them, and thats what I expect them to try and do. Cho has talked about how much he values picks, so don’t be surprised if they try to add another one to stockpile for a deal this summer, or use one of their two 2011 first round picks to acquire a young unproven talent such as Anthony Randolph. If he is willing to take on money, then their may be a deal out there to be made, but whether they are willing to add payroll remains up in the air as long as next year’s CBA is too.

The challenge is to reconstruct this team on the fly and remain in the playoff hunt, while also continuing to hope that Brandon Roy can return after the all star break and stay on the court. Blazer fans won’t be counting on the latter.

The bottom line is they need to be in a position of strength in numbers before they can look to make a big move, and that will be much more likely this summer. The next few weeks will be about determining what is out there for their veterans, while maintaining their current playoff pace.

The next two games against the Spurs and Nuggets are crucial to maintaining that pace, with a fairly benign schedule to follow in the weeks beyond that.

I will be on top of everything swirling around the rumor mill in the next few weeks, and will check periodically as we creep closer to the All-Star Break.

Until then, be well Blazer fans!

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