The following is the third 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. in Part 2 we took a look at the wing positions (sg and sf), and in Part 3 focus will turn to the bigs (pf and center).
Finding and/or creating depth on the front line is the key here. LaMarcus Aldridge anchors the bigs and he's about as good as they get. Marcus Camby, who will turn 39 during the course of the season, is still effective on the boards. After that, there are some serious question marks at these two positions. Should Greg Oden return, his productivity level could impact the team in a big way.
Can LaMarcus Aldridge maintain and even improve on the strides he made last year? Will Chris Johnson be the answer as LaMarcus' backup at pf?
: No Blazer's job is more secure than LaMarcus. He increased his averages by four points and a rebound last season from the season before. He earned western conference player of the week honors twice, conference player of the month once, was named to the all-NBA third team at the end of the season, and it's widely considered be was snubbed for selection to the all-star game. Following injury to Brandon Roy, the offense was re-worked to go through him. In short, LaMarcus became the on-court leader of the team and surely did not disappoint. He is under contract for the next four seasons.
: Can LaMarcus continue to make strides and lead the team to the next level?
: He's repeating his off-season training regiment which he employed last summer -- the same one which he gained 15 pounds of muscle and developed more of an inside game. What would be most beneficial for the Blazers is to put some depth behind LaMarcus, as he played an inordinate number of minutes last season. Surely, you want the best player on the court as possible. At the same time, Portland needs to keep him as fresh as possible come playoff time.
: Chris was picked seemingly out of thin air last year when Marcus went down to injury and played in a couple of games on a 10-day contract. After 20 days as a Boston Celtic, the Blazers brought him back for the remainder of the season. Chris had some very nice moments, and even earned himself a spot in the playoff rotation with his defense, rebounding and shot blocking abilities. He had an excellent season with the D-League's Dakota Wizards, earning league defensive player of the year and first team all D-League. Chris is under contract this season, though it is only partially guaranteed.
: Is Chris the answer at backup forward (and perhaps center) and what exactly is his ceiling?
: If you take a look at his D-League resume, it would seem to be a no brainer to keep Chris. He has a good work ethic and makes his minutes on the court count. at 6'11" and just 210 pounds (according to his NBA.com profile page), he needs to bulk up. If he can put on 20 or so pounds over the summer and maintain his athleticism, he could certainly come into the season stronger and make an impact with Blazers in a reserve role.
How much longer can Marcus Camby be productive in the league? Will Greg Oden return to the Blazers and live up to his potential? Does Earl Barron have value as it pertains to the Blazers plans for next season?
: It's comforting to look at the Blazers roster and see Marcus' name there. He'll be entering his 16th season, but he still averaged 10.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just over 26 minutes per game last season. His experience in the locker room and on the court is invaluable. He is signed through the end of the upcoming season.
: Does Marcus still have enough in the tank to solidify the starting center spot for the Blazers?
: As with LaMarcus, effective depth would be Marcus' best friend this season. The team monitored his minutes following his return from injury last season, and will likely try to do the same this year, as he will turn 39 during the course of the upcoming season. Some seem to advocate trading him due to his expiring contract. With his age and contract status, this could very well be his last season in the league, though we've not heard any official word from him on that. I wouldn't expect to see Marcus traded prior to the start of the season.
: Greg's injury issues are well-lamented not only in Portland, but around the league. In his 82 games, he's shown signs of the player the Blazers hoped to get when they drafted him number one. While he's been sidelined for the majority of the past two seasons, he's still considered a viable player in this league upon his return provided he can stay healthy. He's a very good defender down on the block, can score and rebound. Though the team has not set a specific timetable, Greg is looking at a return probably sometime in December. If the team extends a qualifying offer by June 30, he'll be a restricted free agent. otherwise, he'll be an unrestricted free agent.
: Will the team bring Greg back this season and how effective will he be should he resume his career in Portland?
: Fans of Greg and the Blazers salivate at the idea of seeing him play alongside LaMarcus and they may get the chance once again to see just that. Acting GM Chad Buchanan has made every indication that the team will attempt to being Greg back, but that any offer probably would be made following the draft. Given the Blazers' situation at center, the team should extend the qualifying offer and do what it takes to bring him back. If Greg can at least duplicate his 2009-10 avaerages of 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, he's definitely worth it.
: Earl played in just the last two games of the regular season for the Blazers, and only 18 seconds in the playoffs. In the season finale at Golden State, with several regulars resting, Earl started, scored five points, dished out three assists and grabbed 13 rebounds. He's played in 110 career games with five teams (28 starts) and has posted averages of 5.1 and points, 3.7 rebounds in 15.2 minutes. Earl is signed through the season, but it's unlikely the contract is guaranteed.
: Is Earl a viable option as a backup and/or insurance policy for the Blazers for the upcoming season?
: Signing on as a playoff insurance policy two games prior to season's end is much different than keeping him when planning the roster at the beginning of the season. That being said, the team should take a look at keeping the seven-foot, 250-pounder. Earl has some experience, including being a member of Miami's 2005-06 championship team. He has an excellent attitude and given the Blazers' trouble with injuries among the centers the past couple of years, it could be a valuable move to keep him on the roster.
To review the previous blogs in this series, click here:
Positioning the Blazers - Point Guard
Positioning the Blazers - The Wings
Of course, a lot of moves and contract issues for all the players will be bound by the new collective bargaining agreement when and if it's approved by both the owners and the players. That, in addition to draft results could dictate the shape of next year's roster.
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