Jun 12

The following is the second 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. Part 1 covered the point guards. Today we'll look at the wing positions (sg and sf), and part 3 will focus on the bigs (pf and center).

As opposed to point guard, the wing positions for the Blazers are farily solid. There will be a two-player, off-season battle for the shooting guard spot, but it's nearly certain that both players will remain Blazers nest year. The third; perhaps not. Will Brandon Roy return at least close to his former form? Will Wesley Matthews prove himself to be the long-term solution? Can Rudy Fernandez regain his offensive shooting touch?

: Despite his knee problems, he is still the face of the franchise (though he probably shares that with LaMarcus Aldridge at this point). Brandon showed he can still be an effective player at times. After missing three months to injury last season, he came back to a system late in the season which had completely changed, removing him as the focal point, and which no longer featured him as the starter. No one with even the slightest basketball iq will question his heart and determination. Brandon is signed through 2013-14 and has an early termination option for the following year.
: Is the Brandon of old a thing of the past and can he reinvent himself and provide what the Blazers need from him?
: It's my feeling that Brandon is no where closed to finished. Since his return to the lineup in March, I've heard multiple sources say his condition is more mental than physical. If that's truly the case, a full training camp could bring him completely back into the fold. I'm not convinced that he can't return to all-star form; if anyone can, I think it's Brandon. I believe he'll fight hard in camp to earn back his starting role -- and might just be successful at that. His high salary make it very unlikely he would be traded, even if the team were to entertain the thought.

: It was difficult to think of Wesley as just a second-year player last season. He stepped in admirably when Brandon went down to injury. He played all 82 games, despite being hampered the latter part of the season with a sore ankle. While he's getting treatment for his ankle (he said on twitter last week that he was wearing a boot), Wesley is expected to report to training camp in excellent condition and ready to battle Brandon for the starting spot. Strong defensive player and hustler, offensive consistency can be an issue. He ranked seventh in three-pointers made last season, and 12th in attempts. Wesley is signed through the next four seasons.
: Will he surpass Brandon and make his mark as the starter, and become the Blazers future at sg?
: Wesley will continue to improve certainly can continue as the starter; the real question would be how he would respond to coming off the bench should that be his role. He seemed to struggle as a reserve in 13 games off the bench early last season. He is likely to get a solid share of minutes regardless of whether he is a starter or a reserve.

: The Spaniard was a question mark at the beginning of last season, but attitude seems to no longer to be an issue. Consistent shooting, however, was. The co-inventor of the three goggles had some wonderful shooting performances, but also had some goose eggs. Despite that, you can't question his hustle on defense and going after the loose balls. He went from wanting to go back to Spain to play last year to wanting to sign a contract extension by the end of the season. Rudy is signed through the upcoming season, with an option to extend his contract the following season provided both he and the team agree on terms.
Question: What will it take for Rudy to become a consistent and reliable player for the Blazers?
Analysis: Rudy had a spectacular rookie season, but has had long slumps in his shooting the past two seasons. Whether the controversial events regarding his trade requests last summer put a damper on his performance is possible, but that would be mere speculation. I honestly am not sure if Rudy can become that consistent shooter we saw in his rookie season, but adore the hustle he brings to the team. All being said and done, however, there just may not be enough minutes to go around, which may lead to Rudy being included in a trade.

The starting small forward spot is set, and the backup is certainly in place, along with a third stringer entering his second NBA season. Does Gerald Wallace need just a training camp to become fully acclimated with the Blazers' system? Can Nicolas be a reliable sixth or seventh man? Does Luke Babbitt have a future in Portland?

: Gerald quickly proved his nickname of "Crash" after being acquired in a trade deadline deal from Charlotte. His numbers as a Blazer probably really aren't indicative of what he's capable of. The face of the Bobcats' franchise showed glimpses of what to expect from him during a full season. Gerald is a complete player in the prime of his career and, barring an amazing turn events, will enter the season as the starter at the small forward. He is under contract through the upcoming season and has a player option for 2012-13.
Question: Can Gerald continue to acclimate himself to Blazers basketball and give the team the consistent punch it needs?
Analysis: There's no question in my mind that all Gerald needs is a full training camp with the Blazers to feel right at home. Furthermore, it's very likely he will become the second or third option. He can provide a spark, is more than a capable rebounder and extraordinary defender. Gerald is moving his family to Portland this summer so there's cause for optimism that he'll exercise that player option at the end of this season. The bottom line is that Gerald isn't going anywhere. That's a very good thing.

: Nicolas, entering his fourth year in the league, has shown marked improvement each season. He's had to adjust and readjust to being in and out of the starting lineup several times throughout his career, something which cannot be easy. With Gerald as the starter, Nicolas will assume a backup role and will be relied upon to help anchor the second unit, much like he was asked to do in the playoffs. Consistency can be an issue with him, but he is a quality rebounder and can give the team a big night. He's also a very good defender who is sometimes called upon to guard the opposing point. Like Rudy, Nicolas is signed through the upcoming season, with an option to extend his contract the following season provided both he and the team agree on terms
Question: Can Nicolas take his game to the next level, become consistent, and help lead the second unit?
Analysis: Nicolas will play for his native french national team this summer, so he'll keep in the basketball groove. Perhaps a consistent role as first or second player off the bench will improve the consistency in his play. Portland is a team who needs to rely on it's reserves. I'm confident Nicolas can help in that regard. It should be noted that several teams have already shown interest in him. It's realistic that for the right price, a trade could be in his future.

: Luke played in a handful of games last year with discouraging results. He actually made a name for himself with the D-League's Stampede in several games. He was obtained because of the shooting ability he showed in college, but that never transferred to the big stage. Little has been said about the Blazers' long-term plans for Luke. He is signed through next year with team options for each of the following two years.
Question: While the Blazers are looking for a reliable shooter, can they turn Luke into that player?
Analysis: Luke is a huge question mark for the Blazers, and probably won't get many minutes behind Gerald and Nicolas at his natural position of small forward. Given Portland's ability to go small with Brandon or Wesley at sf, it doesn't appear as if Luke will benefit with any meaningful time on the court, That's what he needs more than anything else. It's reasonable to think he could be packaged up in a trade deal, unless the team were to trade Nicolas, which I still see as possible, yet unlikely.

I see the wing positions as the most solid on this team. Other than Rudy, and Luke, I really don't see much happening in the way of major changes here. Of course, in true Blazers fashion, I wouldn't rule out some player movement on draft day.

~ Kassandra

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


  1. Good stuff Kasey! I can't say I disagree with any of your conclusions. One thing of value with Nico: The way GW plays, he will get hurt at some point during the season, hopefully just for a couple games (maybe that is when Luke gets his opportunity to perform on the big state). I'm sure Nico is up to the task and will welcome the opportunity

    by BlockParty aka Teamship on 6/15/2011 5:43 AM
  2. The wing slots are one position other teams can envy the Blazers

    by Ancientone on 6/15/2011 7:45 AM
  3. To My dear friend and celebrity, Miss Kassandra:

    A great analysis as usual. I am in full agreement with some add-ons of course, it would be no fun just to praise and agreeing with you.

    1. Brandon Roy, I am not fully informed on what the new CBA may bring, but it has been mentioned in many blogs of the amnesty clause that may effect BRoy's career in Portland. So that is a wait and see. Of course my speculation and Dr. Roberts speculation on PRP, that is an experimental, on the edge, procedure that works some time with some patients and not at other times, regardless of what it can heal, it is proven to reduce swelling and inflammation and can be administered time and time again, so that is a wait and see. It was IMO, that BRoy was rehabbing while on the court late in the season and was following Dr's orders in order to produce at all. Therefore with a green light to go full force like you said, should give us some answers and that is a wait and see.

    Bottom line let's wait and see LOL.

    2 Wesley:

    Your analysis is right on target with him, the question of him coming off the bench might be answered by asking who he comes off the bench with. Nic. Those two plays great together and they are both professionals and play roles and team ball. so that may already be answered, or BRoy playing the two instead of the PG off the bench in full force might be a Batman and Robin duo.

    3. I know the Blazer staff is high on Babbitt. and I think he will be kept on a learning curve 3rd team player.

    4. I left out Rudy, becuase I just don't know about him, Do you think it is his eyes, his back, or something else? I do believe if possible he will be traded.

    5. I don't look for too much in free agency, I do look for help with depth and bench with the draft. I do hope for Greg. then we are all set.

    We are not as good as I wished we were, but we are a lot better then we used to be and better then many thinks we should be.

    That was a great question that you asked on Courtside, I think we will draft for help in a needed spot and best player available at that time.

    Later my friend


    by Hg on 6/15/2011 7:50 AM
  4. My thoughts-

    LA is the face of the franchise. Wesley is going to be a huge contributor for the team for the foreseeable future. We beat Dallas if we acquired Gerald just a month of two earlier. Him being in All-Star form for 82 games could boost us into home court contention. Finally, don't sleep on Luke Babbitt. I know fans were discouraged after his rookie year but the kid can shoot and sooner or later, he's going to put it all on display.

    by DHawes22 on 6/16/2011 12:28 PM
  5. I agree with what you said here. We are stacked at wing positions. Luke definitely needs more "court" time. I know he can score in the D-League but the NBA is a whole other monster. He just looks confused and awkward when he's in there. But he might be good in due time. Rudy...who knows. I hope he gets back to enjoying the game and playing with confidence. That's all he needs. Oh and to stop complaining about playing time. Other than those two hiccups, I think we have some of the best wing talent in the league.

    by CrazyRusty on 6/18/2011 9:49 PM
  6. Kasey - don't go dissing my guy, Babbitt! It's great that the Blazers have so many options at these two positions. The only way I see something major messing up with the starters and second unit is if the Blazers include batum in a major trade. Otherwise, I think the wings are the most solid part of the roster. Like Rusty said, we have some of the best talent in the league!

    by julianne on 6/19/2011 7:11 PM
  7. BP: don't even make the injury prediction in regards to Crash (although i can't argue that when it comes to a guy nicknames "Crash"). i do think we want go keep Nicolas.

    Ancientone: depthwise, this is our strength and other teams should take note.

    Dustin: i'm just not sure i can get behind Babbitt. truthfully, it would be great to have a reliable shooter, but i just don't think he's going to get the chance to become that guy while playing behind Crash and Nicolas. i do think if we had acquired Crash sooner we would have certainly had more of a chance to take care of dallas in the first round.

    by Kassandra on 6/20/2011 8:04 PM
  8. Ryan: i think Rudy is the big question mark. his attitude has improved, but his shot really has not. i love his hustle, but i just don't see him getting minutes with a healthy Brandon and Wesley, along with Crash and Nicolas. it's kind of the same thing i see as with Luke.

    Jules: sorry to say it about Luke (hey, Dustin agrees with you!). like i said though, i just don't think he's going to get much of a chance any time soon. i could be wrong; i just don't see that.

    Hg: you seem to want me to talk about Brandon, so here's my take. Brandon is not going to retire and he is not going to be traded. i think you've read Sarah's blog from today about him getting his mind in gear for what he needs to do this season. Brandon will continue to be a blazer. there will be no amnesty clause exercised. as for the procedure, i haven't looked into that at all, but i'm sure if it's a viable option, it is being looked into.

    by Kassandra on 6/20/2011 8:25 PM
  9. Thank you Kassandra for your welcomed reply.

    by Hg on 6/20/2011 9:58 PM
  10. Kass, good evaluations on our wing players. I'm not so sure what's going to happen at the SG position. If Brandon can come back and adjust to playing a different role and excels at that, he could possibly be starting again next season. Wesley is Mr. Hustle. I don't think it really matters if he starts of comes off the bench. Yes, it is hard to believe next season will only be his third year in the league... the kid plays like a grizzled veteran. As for Rudy, I'm just not sure about him... He has the capability of stroking the ball really well from down town but for some reason struggled last season. Ever since the Trevor Ariza play where he hurt his back, he hasn't been the same basketball player.

    The SF is our strongest position as of right now. Gerald Wallace is a lock for the starting job and who wouldn't want Nicolas Batum as a backup? If Gerald and Nicolas are on the team next year (which I'm highly sure they will be) I'm not sure where that leaves Luke. The kid has the capability of being a Kyle Korver type lights out shooter.. he just really needs to work on the little things like finding ways to get himself more open and stopping and popping.

    by Mark on 6/21/2011 1:20 AM
  11. Hg: no problem, you knew i would reply!

    Mark: i really think Brandon can return and make his mark on the team (no pun intended). most credible things i've read say the great majority of Brandon's status is mental rather than physical. i think he's smart enough to make an impact. Gerald and Nicolas make a very good tandem at sf. it probably is our strongest position. i think the team's wish is to keep them both but, as we know, anything can happen.

    by Kassandra on 6/21/2011 8:09 PM
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