The following is the first of a three-part series on this blog where I'll take a look at each position on the Blazers roster and what the realities of off-season moves might have on those positions. Today we'll look at point guard; part 2 will cover the wings (sg and sf), and in part 3 will focus on the bigs (pf and center).
A long-term solution at point guard may just be the most compelling issue facing the Blazers in the off season. There may not be any one solution which appears more attractive than another.
Will the Blazers re-sign Andre Miller? Can Patrick Mills or Armon Johnson emerge to take a major roll with the team? What impact will Elliot Williams have with the Blazers? Will the team look to the draft to find a long-term solution at the point? Will a trade be made to bring in that piece of the puzzle?
In order to truly consider the questions, we should take a look at our current options.
: The 6'2" starter will be entering his 13th season in the league. Whether he'll don a Blazers' uniform for that season remains to be seen. Andre showed he can still carry the team for stretches when needed. He's an intelligent, crafty player who has missed just six games during his career -- just three of those due to injuries. This means he's had no career-shortening injuries. The biggest knock on him is that he's 35, which is generally considered on the older end of a player's career. The team has to decide whether sign him to a third year by June 29. If Portland signs him, his contract would expire after this coming season.
: Can Andre continue to be an effective starting point guard for the Blazers this season, possibly longer with a contract extension?
: He may be 35, but Jason Kidd is three years older and has helped lead the Mavericks to the finals this season. He likely has three more solid years in the league. However, if Portland selects a pg with its first pick in the draft, Andre's days in the Rose City very well could be numbered.
: Patty played in 64 of his 74 career games last season, and earned a role as the backup pg. He's a quick player with a good shot and willingness to get his teammates involved. He also improved his defense over the course of the season. One criticism is consistency from game to game. He's a great teammate and has an exceptional connection with fans. Should the team make a qualifying offer, he will be a restricted free agent; if they don't, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
: Can Patty elevate his game enough to indicate he can be no less than the backup pg of the future and even possibly a starter?
: I see a high ceiling for Patty. He has the tools and the motivation. It's apparent that he wants to remain a Blazer (fans certainly want him here). There seems to be no indication whether the team will extend a qualifying offer; regardless, there likely will be interest in Patty from other teams once he becomes a free agent.
: Armon came into the season as an untested rookie, but quickly was inserted into the lineup as the backup to Andre. Shortly thereafter, he found himself on the bench due to turnover problems. This was followed by a pair of stints in the D-League where he played quite well for Idaho. Armon's defensive abilities reportedly impressed coach McMillan. He is signed through the upcoming season.
: Can Armon become a distributor and limit his turnovers to earn a spot in the rotation?
: Armon has a great work ethic and a drive to improve. The question isn't so much whether he can get there, but whether the make up of the position and the team will give him the chance. His drive and desire to improve could serve him well toward that end.
: Surgery on both knees sidelined Elliot, so little is known about what impact he may have on the team, and the pg position in particular. A combo guard, at 6'5" he would have a height advantage over most opposing players when he lines up at the point. He averaged 1.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 12 minutes per game in his four pre-season games last year. Prior to his knee surgeries, he had a reported 46-inch vertical leap. Elliot is signed through the upcoming season, with team options for the following two seasons.
: The real query here is what his role will be for the Blazers during what will be considered his rookie year?
: Elliot can play either guard position which could give McMillan some flexibility in how to use him. However, with Brandon Roy and Wesley Matthews around at sg, it's improbable that he'll find many meaningful minutes there. His best bet will be to try and work his way into the pg rotation. My general feeling that of all four of these guys, Elliot is the least likely to be included in a trade.
There we have it; one veteran and three guys who really haven't had a legitimate chance to earn their place on the roster. Sure, Patty and Armon have played some, but probably not really enough for us to be able to make a true determination of what impact they could have in the future.
Any number of things could happen regarding any one or two of these players. It's safe to say the Blazers' selection in the draft (June 23) will play a major role in the decisions of how the team moves forward at the pg position.
The one thing I would project here is that one or two of these guys will probably not be a Blazer by opening night. As unfortunate as that seems, it appears to be the reality of the situation.
In Kassandra's Words will feature regular blogs throughout the off-season. Comments and questions are welcome and encouraged. Seasons begin and end, but our Blazers are forever. Please follow on twitter: @Kassandra227