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What The Portland Trail Blazers Can Learn From The NBA Finals

Thursday, June 04, 2015

 

To the dismay of Trail Blazers fans everywhere, their season ended far sooner than most people expected. At the beginning of the season the Blazers looked to be one of the better Western Conference teams. The Blazers even entered the post-season with an impressive 51-31 record. Unfortunately, injuries began to mount up. Throughout the 82-game season Robin Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Kaman, Joel Freeland, Dorell Wright, C.J. McCollum, Arron Afflalo and Wesley Matthews all sustained injuries that resulted in missed games. That’s over half the team. Without everyone consistently available, cohesion was an obvious issue when they faced the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs. The result was a first-round exit. 

Luckily, injuries are something that teams can recover from during the offseason. 

If Neil Olshey is able to retain these players during free agency they may not have as much work to do when it comes to the roster as many people think. The Trail Blazers are actually constructed similarly to the two teams that are appearing in the NBA Finals.

All-Star Point Guard

The Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have All-Star point guards that are considered to be relatively young. Damian Lillard is 24, Stephen Curry is 27 and Kyrie Irving is 23. Youth is a commodity that all NBA teams need, at least to a certain extent. It’s far easier to play through an 82-game season when you’re knees haven’t gone through the grind of an NBA season for over 15 years. It’s even more valuable when you’re floor general is also a threat when it comes to scoring and distributing. Lillard, Curry and Irving all averaged at least 20 points and 5 assist per game. That means that these three All-Stars accounted for nearly 30 points per game for their teams. Any NBA team would openly welcome any player that talented. In terms of exceptional point guard play, the Trail Blazers have that area covered. 

Solid Three-Point Shooting

If there’s one category that these three teams know extremely well, it’s how important the 3-ball can be. Before the Blazer's Wesley Matthews went down with a torn Achilles he was the NBA’s leader in 3-pointers made. When you combine Matthews with Lillard, Batum, Wright, and Leonard, you have a team that is a consistent threat from beyond the arc. Coincidently, the Trail Blazers, Warriors and Cavaliers were all represented in this year’s 3-Point Shootout during All-Star Weekend. Matthews, Curry, Thompson and Irving were all contestants that competed against each other during this event. Curry, Thompson and Irving are now playing in the NBA Finals, which makes it fairly evident that having a 3-point specialist is a commodity any team with NBA Finals aspirations require.

A Lockdown Defender

One reason that this year’s NBA Finals will be so intriguing to watch is because both teams have defenders that can lockdown their opponent on any given night. The Warrior’s Andre Iguodala appeared on the NBA’s All Defensive First Team in 2014 and Draymond Green appeared on that team this year. The Cavalier’s LeBron James has appeared on the NBA’s All Defensive First Team 5 times and the NBA’s All Defensive Second Team once. When it comes to how the Trail Blazer’s roster is currently constructed they have 2 very good defenders that consistently guard the opposing team's best player. Matthews and Batum are considered to be the defensive aces that led one of the league’s best defensive teams. During the 2014-2015 season the Trail Blazers had the 10th best defensive efficiency according to ESPN.com.

A Center That Controls The Paint

Robin Lopez, Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov are all center’s that are over 7-feet tall that have a tendency to control the paint for their respective teams. Between these 3 centers they turned back 253 shot-attempts during the 2014-2015 season. That means that this season alone they prevented 506 points from being scored against their team. Generally, having a center that has this particular skillset allows the power-forward to be more of a scoring threat. The Trail Blazers, Warriors and Cavs are living proof of this. LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green and Tristan Thompson have all benefitted from playing with a center that controls the paint.

A Superstar

If the NBA has shown us anything over the past few years it’s that every team wants to have a plethora of superstars. The Warriors and Cavaliers are no exceptions. The Warrior’s Stephen Curry is undoubtedly a superstar considering he’s the league’s MVP. In addition to Curry, the Warrior’s have Thompson and Green who are widely considered to have a superstar status within the next few years. On the other side of the ball, the Cavs have LeBron James, who is most likely the best basketball player on the planet. The Cav’s Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are also considered to be some of the best players at their position within the entire NBA. If the Trail Blazers are able to retain LaMarcus Aldridge they will have one of the best power-forwards on their ball club. They also have Damian Lillard, who is still getting better. Many people forget that he just completed his 3rd NBA season. If Lillard is able to continue growing as a player he will be a superstar in no-time.

Based on the teams made it to the NBA Finals it appears as though the Portland Trail Blazers aren’t that far off from competing for a championship. If their General Manager, Neil Olshey, can re-sign the majority of his free-agents, then there’s no telling how far this team can go…..as long as they stay healthy. 

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Most Devastating Sports Injuries

Here is GoLocalPDX's list of Oregon's most devastating injuries that have occured within the past 10 years.

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Greg Oden

Sept. 2007 — Micro fracture surgery on right knee

Dec. 2009 — Fractured left patella 

Nov. 2010 — Micro fracture surgery on left knee

Dec. 2011 — Arthroscopic surgery on right knee

Unfortunately, Trail Blazer fans everywhere already know how drafting Greg Oden over Kevin Durant worked out for their team. After being be the #1 selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, Oden was never able to play a full season due to ongoing knee injuries. The team eventually waived him in March of 2012.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Dennis Dixon

Nov. 2007 — Torn left ACL

During the 2007 season Dixon had the Oregon Ducks as the #2 team in the country. That was until he suffered a torn ACL against Arizona State and attempted to play on it the following week against Arizona. After Dixon went down for the season the Ducks lost their remaining two regular season games. Fortunately, they were able to end their season on a high note with a victory over South Florida in the 2007 Sun Bowl.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Brandon Roy

Sept. 2008 — Cartilage removed from left knee

April 2010 — Meniscus tear in right knee

Jan. 2011 — Arthroscopic surgery on both knees

Brandon Roy is perhaps one of the most beloved Trail Blazers in the history of the franchise. After being drafted in 2006, and leading the team out of the "Jail-Blazer" era, he had to make the tough decision to retire at the young age of 28. His degenerative knees prevented Rip City from seeing their superstar ever play to his full potential.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Jacquizz Rodgers

Nov. 2008 — Grade II separation of the acromioclavicular joint

During the second to last game in 2008 Jacquizz Rodgers suffered a separated shoulder that ended his season. Unfortunately, this meant that he wasn't able to play in the Civil War, which was perhaps the biggest game of the year for the Beavers. If the Beavers had been able to defeat the Ducks they would've been able to book their tickets to play in the Rose Bowl. Instead, they went to the Sun Bowl where they defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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James Rodgers

Oct. 2009 — Torn left ACL

After participating in only 4 games during the 2009 season Rodgers went down with a torn ACL while playing against #9 Arizona. This couldn't have come at a worse time for Rodgers considering he was expected to have a breakout season. Rodgers, who was a senior at the time, was able to end his career at Oregon State as the career leader in all-purpose yards.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Joel Pryzbilla

Dec. 2009 — Ruptured right patella tendon and dislocated patella

In December of 2009 the Trail Blazers' backup center, Joel Pryzbilla, was lost for the season with a ruptured and dislocated patella. This was a huge blow to the Trailblazers' frontcourt because they had already lost Oden for the season a few weeks before. Pryzbilla was also the team's defensive anchor who provided an inside presence. "The Vanilla Gorilla" was sorely missed for the rest of the year.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropepd)
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LaMichael James

Oct. 2011 — Dislocated right elbow

The 2011 season couldn't have started any better for LaMichael James. After the first game James became Oregon's career rushing leader, surpassing Derek Loville. During the second game he rushed for over 200 yards against Missouri State. Unfortunately, James' year was slowed by a dislocated elbow suffered against Cal. Luckily for Duck fans he was able to return to end the season.

Photo via Facebook (image cropped)
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Nate Costa

Nov. 2010 —Torn Right ACL

After suffering a multitude of knee injuries throughout his career at Oregon Costa was forced to officially retire from football after tearing his ACL for the third time in agame against Washington. Although Costa's career was hobbled by injuries many of his teammates looked to him as their leader. Oregon's coaching staff referred to Costa as the "heart and soul" of the 2010 team that won the Rose Bowl.

Photo via Addictedtoquack (image cropped)
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Sean Mannion

Oct. 2012 — Torn Left Meniscus

During the beginning of the 2012-2013 season, Sean Mannion was enjoying one of his best as a Beaver. Unfortunately, he tore his left meniscus against Washington State that resulted in him missing around half the season. With Mannion leading the way the Beavers had the Pac-12's fourth rated offense, averaging 459.5 yeards per game. With Mannion sidelined Cody Vaz became the starting quarterback

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Marcus Mariota

Oct. 2013 — Partial MCL Tear

Marcus Mariota is widely regarded as one of the greatest Oregon Duck quarterbacks to ever play at Autzen. Unfortunately a knee injury hobbled his sophomore season. After Mariota suffered a partial MCL tear against UCLA he conintued to play the remainder of the season. With Mariota's knee not allowing him to be as mobile as he was accustomed to teams were able to take advantage. In the weeks following the injury the Ducks suffered losses to Stanford and Arizona. Duck fans everywhere would like to know what that season woud've loked like if Mariota had stayed healthy.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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CJ McCollum

Oct. 2013 — Broken fifth Metatarsal In Left Foot

After being taken 10th overall during the 2013 NBA Draft the shooting guard out of Lehigh wasn't able to start his career the way many had hoped. After breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot the rookie wasn't able to take the court until January of 2014. Before the injury McCollum was in consideration for playing time behind Lillard. 

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Alex Morgan

Oct. 2013 — Stress reaction in talus bone

During the 2013 season Morgan suffered an injury that doctors misdiagnosed as a mildly sprained ankle. After a few additional tests were performed it turned out that Morgan had suffered a far more serious injury. She actually suffered a stress reaction in the talus bone that put her immediate future with Team USA in question. After rehabbing for 7 months Morgan was able to make a full recovery.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Bralon Addison

April 2014 — Torn left ACL

After exceeding expectations as a freshman and sophomore at the University of Oregon Addison was expecting big things from his junior year. Unfortunately, Addison suffered a torn ACL during last year's spring practice that kept him sidelined the entire year. Without Addison in the lineup the receiving core never lived up to their full potential. If he had been able to play this season the National Championship may have wielded a different outcome.

Photo via Facebook (image cropped)
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Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Dec. 2014 — Torn ACL

In preparation for the first ever college football playoffs Ekpre-Olomu ended up tearing his ACL during a routine practice. This was a huge blow to the Ducks considering Ekpre-Olomu was one of the team's better defenders. He was also one of the best corners in the country who many analysists expected to be selected as high as the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Wesley Matthews

March 2015 — Torn left achilles

Just 2 months before Matthews suffered a torn achilles he had become the Trailblazers' all-time leader in 3-point field goals made. It looked as though the Trailblazers were poised to make a deep playoff run. Things took a drastic turn when Matthews was lost for the season. With the team in a 0-2 hole against the Memphis Grizzlies it doesn't look as though they will be making it to the second round of the playoffs this year.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
 
 

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