You Can Learn A Lot From History
‘OKC, take heed to what’s happened to Portland…’
Lets take a step back in time (Hot Tub Time Machine style) to just a couple of years ago.
The Portland Trail Blazers were the “it” team in the NBA, loaded with a crop of young stars and were the envy of the Association. With a triumvirate of players consisting of the do-everything swingman Brandon Roy from UDubb, the versatile big in LaMarcus Aldridge from Texas, and the ever loquacious big man Gregory Oden from Ohio State, they seemed primed and ready to take assault in the Western Conference.
They were going to be the next “Big 3” so to speak, and with a very deep supporting cast that included the likes of Steve Blake, Nicholas Batum, Joel Pryzbilla, Martell Webster, Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, and Sergio Rodriguez, they were setting the example of how you revamp a franchise with young talent and bring a team back to prominence (everyone pour out a little for the Jail Blazers). Plus, the Blazers were being led by a player’s coach in Nate McMillan, as he was chosen to lead a team that had been riddled with cap problems, as well as off-the-court drama. His ability to calm the waters in The Rose City has been huge for the turnaround. All hail Blazers’ GM Kevin Pritchard as well, as he was savvy enough to make the draft picks, trades, and financial resources available to assemble this team. He is the man who made it happen.
Now, let’s fast-forward to present day.
Look at the Blazers now; notwithstanding their struggles to deal with injuries, do we look at Portland as a team that is elite? Outside of Brandon Roy, are any of the players on this roster capable of even being an All-Star? Once you get past the top two players (Roy and Aldridge), none of the other players on this team stand out as being clearly better than the other guys at their positions. Even when Joel Pryzbilla and Greg Oden come back from injuries, even if they decide to keep Marcus Camby, are they going to be any better than a top-three team in the West? The answer to that is…of course not.
The Blazers had opportunities in free agency and with potential trades to bring an elite player to help Brandon Roy lead this team, yet they decided to continue to let their young talent develop. Going into 2010, in the wake of the greatest free agent class maybe of all-time, they can’t do anything of significance in signing anyone, outside of attempting to resign Roy (which him resigning is not a guarantee). BRoy goes night-in and night-out and puts it all on the line, while having the equivalent of Cray paper, pixie sticks, balsam wood, hot Velveeta, and a fairy’s wishes holding his knees together. He works extremely hard to put up points for an offense that, at times, struggles to get quality scores. Simply put, I’m not sure you can win a title with Brandon Roy being the best player on your team.
So what’s the true outlook of Portland now? They’re fighting for the No. 8 seed in the West. In short, the Blazers might have already peaked and it’s possibly time to go to Plan B.
Hello? Sam Presti…Oklahoma City Thunder staff…are you paying attention?
You see, the Thunder are in a similar, if not even better, position than the Blazers were in previously. They have clearly emerged with a “Big 3” and have a plethora of young talent as a supporting cast to really help this team get to the next level. The concern I have is this: Do you wait to see what this team will look like in 2-3 years, all while having to re-up all three players’ contracts and hoping to keep the team relatively intact?
Therein lies the problem, we’ve all seen how a team’s window of opportunity can suddenly slam shut. Now, I’m not saying the Thunder’s window is going to shut soon, but there’s no sense in waiting 4-5 years to see if this team can make a run at a title. Portland sat back and they got bit, and because of it they are another major piece away from being elite. OKC needs players to fit a role, and they need veteran leadership. Kevin Durant has a chance to be the greatest player of the 2010’s, Russell Westbrook has officially put his name in the hat for the throne of this decade’s best point guard, and Jeff Green leads the role players on a mission to not let KD down.
Look at the standings…Oklahoma City is fighting for home court in the first round of the playoffs. Who knows, this team could be ready to be title-bound in the next year or two; they’re that good. Sam Presti’s hard work is just getting started, with him realizing that half the battle is going from bad to good. How will Presti and Co. take the Thunder from being good to great? (Jim Collins reference, go read the book sometime).
What do you all think? Is it a quality big man? What about a veteran swingman? What would it take to turn the Thunder into a dynasty? Let us know your thoughts.
(Oh yeah, we won’t even mention the fact that the Blazers could look much different if they would’ve picked Durant at No. 1 instead of Oden. That wouldn’t be fair).
Eddie Maisonet is a freelance sports writer, blogger and big time hoops fan from Oklahoma who currently resides in Cincinnati. Keep up with Eddie at SLAMonline as well as his award-winning blog Ed The Sports Fan and on Twitter.