Jun 18

Positioning the Blazers - The Bigs

By Kassandra Posted in: ChrisJohnson, earlbarron, GregOden, LaMarcusAldridge, MarcusCamby
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.
Question: Can LaMarcus continue to make strides and lead the team to the next level?
Analysis: 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.
Question: Is Chris the answer at backup forward (and perhaps center) and what exactly is his ceiling?
Analysis: 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.
Question: Does Marcus still have enough in the tank to solidify the starting center spot for the Blazers?
Analysis: 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.
Question: Will the team bring Greg back this season and how effective will he be should he resume his career in Portland?
Analysis: 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.
Question:  Is Earl a viable option as a backup and/or insurance policy for the Blazers for the upcoming season?
Analysis: 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.

~ 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. great blog and definitely some questions that need to be answered. I hope we keep chris he is a great find and does provide defense we need. He will only get better as he gets stronger physically and adds more weight and muscle which he is working on this summer. also there are two possiblities of those currently signed dont pan out and that is bringing in jeff pendergraph to help out or bring dante back. time will tell on draft and what happens with the cba...I prefer jp coming back to help lamarcus over dc. anyhow great food for thought.

    by oregongal47 view (TG) on 6/18/2011 12:51 PM
  2. Thank you Miss Kassandra, for the great piece of work.

    I have all the faith in the world in LMA, he will add some more moves to his game to further confuse defenders. I believe he will get even tougher, become a better passer, and deliver off the dribble even more effective.

    I don't know how much Marcus has left in his tank. I don't think he has slowed down as much as it seems because he was not fully recovered from knee surgery. I think he will be more effective with less minutes, if Greg comes back and/or get a back up center in draft or trade.

    We will have to run Chris Johnson through training camp, work on his body and let him compete for a spot. Same with Earl Watson. Neither is guaranteed as future blazers. I do look for Watson to be dropped because his isn't signed and I believe we will get Nikola V. in the draft. Watson is on his way out and Nikola is on his way in.

    I also still think we will drop Rudy one way or the other and resign, Jeff Pendergraph. And maybe even Joel.

    What ever we do to shore up the PF and Center will be of big help to Camby and LMA. Of course I am still hoping for Greg, I want to see Greg, LMA and BRoy, play at their best for just one game.

    Thanks for the blog, give your brother congratulation or condolence from me.

    by Hg on 6/18/2011 7:07 PM
  3. Love what I saw from Chris Johnson in the playoffs. Great hustle and God-given talent. I think he might be a legit backup for LA in a year or two. Needs to bulk up, like you said, and just work on his post presence. GET BIG IN THERE! Greg is the biggest question mark for me still. Come on, will he ever be healthy. I hope for his sake and the organization the answer is yes. Just haven't seen much evidence to back that up. LA is my boy and so is Camby. Get connection and chemistry between the two and I hope we can get one full year, if not two from Marcus.

    by CrazyRusty on 6/18/2011 9:53 PM
  4. Thanks for the dedicated writing Kasey. I think the key with the big men this coming season (hopefully we have one~a season) is Oden. LMA had an incredible year, and the only individual accolade missing was an invitation to the All-star game. Based on how LMA finished 2010-11, if he puts up the exact same numbers, he will be an all-star in 2012. I think as a group the Blazer can expect the same cumulative contribution from the role players (Camby, Johnson, etc) though not the same amount from each individual. So that leaves Oden, the single greatest wild-card for the Blazers this season (2nd biggest is Roy as he adapts to his new body).

    Hopefully Oden surpasses even his own expectations and leads a spirited UpRise deep into the playoffs.

    by BlockParty aka Teamship on 6/19/2011 2:10 PM
  5. Love this series by you, Kasey! I think you're right about these guys (you're usually right about the Blazers anyway!). Aldridge will get even better and this season is when Oden will come back and begin to really make his mark. I'd say Camby still has it but that the team just needs to take it easy on the minutes he plays. Johnson and a rookie from the draft can help round out these two positions and we'll probably pick up someone in free agency or keep Barron. You're totally right about needing depth. But not just depth. We need guys who McMillan will trust to put out on the court for the time it takes to give Aldridge, Oden and Camby the rest they need.

    by julianne on 6/19/2011 6:50 PM
  6. @julianne, I think you and I are too prejudices with Kassandra, but I love it.

    My big hope is Greg too, I think though we need to draft or look as if we don't have him then he can be more help with less expectations.

    Kassandra and I both have bigs as our choice of the draft, because we feel we need help there. The way I see it is, if we pick a Center to give Camby some rest and stop LMA from having to back up the center so much, In Dec or Jan, when Greg comes back we will have another center to help with Greg's minutes. As Greg and a drafted big gets more minutes Camby could get less, then at the end of the season and his contract he can resign as third string center and a Mentor for Greg and the rest of the bigs including LMA

    by Hg on 6/19/2011 7:30 PM
  7. Hg - I think you're right on with our prejudices regarding Kassandra. Her insight is amazing and not just about the Blazers. She's so intelligent it's almost scary! I just wrote a blog of my own and I swear I swear I should have put in a reference or bibliography reference like this "Kassandra's Brain!" The Link to my new blog is:


    It's just like Kasey said, though. we just need the kind of depth that the coach will trust to keep in the game while our main guys get their rest. Camby would be a great mentor. I think he already is and he's helped Aldridge a lot.

    by julianne on 6/19/2011 8:44 PM
  8. Our needs are #1 Center #2 Rebounding Forward who can score #3 Point Guard......... #1Center Nocogeria #2Forward Faried,#3PG Morris or Shumpert or McCamey

    by mbmurr1 on 6/20/2011 9:43 AM
  9. Shumpert? seriously, dude? you really want to hand the future pg duties of the blazers over to a guy who last year only averaged 3.5 assists a game, and shot barely over 40 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from 3pt range -- in college? ikes, i certainly would hope not! lol

    by Kassandra on 6/20/2011 3:29 PM
  10. TG, Ryan, Hg and Jules ... i'll get to your comments in a little bit!

    by Kassandra on 6/20/2011 3:33 PM
  11. TG: Pendergraph is an option, but by no means an absolute. there has been some nba scouting on Jeff and he may find a place on another team. that being said, i think it would be a good move to try and go after him.

    Ryan: Chris could be a great asset for us and his status is completely up to us. i know he's getting into shape (his wife tweeted he was eating several tacos for dinner the other night!). i guess it's just like i was saying. we need depth we can trust.

    BP: Greg will be a key. i don't know if you remember him during what was his rookie year, but he looked really good. he was strong and we won 13 more games with him over the season before. he was even better in his 21 games the following year before the injury. he really has the opportunity to help the blazers going forward.

    Hg/Jules: love the mutual admiration society! if you keep it up, i might just develop an ego! i really do think we'll take a couple of bigs in the draft. it must makes more sense to try and replace Marcus than it does to replace Andre, who is three years younger.

    by Kassandra on 6/20/2011 8:39 PM
  12. Obviously LaMarcus is a lock starter for the next four years and won't be going anywhere. I wouldn't mind seeing Chris Johnson bulk up a little as well. He has some hops and has great blocking instincts, like Oden (well the blocking instincts anyways). Can we rely on Johnson being a consistent backup for LaMarcus though? I think we need a proven solid PF backup to give LaMarcus more rest during the regular season. He played way too many minutes. He and Wesley were in the top 5 for total minutes played in the league and you could easily tell that when the playoffs were going.

    The center position. This is the most confusing position for me because of Greg's obvious health concerns. We all want him to come back healthy and dominate everyone like we were expecting when we drafted him nearly 4 years ago. Will he? It's possible obviously but I wouldn't bank on it. Marcus (feather time) isn't a spring chicken anymore. I think he still has one MAYBE two more seasons left in him. I'm sure he'll be a Blazer until the day he retires. He is still a great rebounder for his age and has shown great chemistry with LaMarcus as someone stated earlier. I don't really see Earl Barron having a future with this team. I think this position is of most concern and needs to be addressed first, even before the point guard situation.

    by Mark on 6/21/2011 1:38 AM
  13. @Mark, as said, I am hoping to acquire Vucevic in the draft and thinking without knowing or hearing that we can get Joel back to back up Camby until Greg gets back later in the year, but that can happen after we find out about a lock-out. either way, I don't see Earl Barron having a future with us either. Patty might take care of the PG situation as I feel Dre is excellent for the spot for another 3 years or so with his durability.

    Like you, I don't feel we can bank on Greg being an impact player, so we fill the center spot and then whatever Greg brings will be extra gravy.

    by Hg on 6/21/2011 5:15 AM
  14. Mark: i think even after four years, the blazers will extend LaMarcus' contract. by then he'll be in the prime of his career (i practically salivate at how good he's going to be then!). i don't know if we can rely on Chris to be a reliable backup, but my inclination is to believe he's going to get a shot at it. we're going to have to get some depth at center if we're going to go anywhere in the playoffs, whether or not Greg comes back. we're just too thin there right now.

    Hg: i hope we get a guy like Vucevic, but i'm not too sure he'll be available. it'll be interesting to see. i definitely think we need to go with a big with pick #21, and probably even pick #51 as well.

    by Kassandra on 6/21/2011 8:16 PM
  15. Miss Kassandra:

    I will bet you that Vucevic will come closer to being available then Donatas Motiejunas. Although I like Donatas Motiejunas better, I think he will be gone in the lottery.

    If both are gone I would go with Sarah's pick, Kenneth Faried

    by Hg on 6/21/2011 8:32 PM
  16. well, looks like all bets were off. Motiejunas was taken just one sport before us. we probably wouldn't have taken him, but it could have been nice to see him available. i wouldn't have taken Faried. one dimensional, little defense and too undersized.

    ~ Kassansdra

    by Kassandra on 6/27/2011 8:28 PM
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