Making the best of a bad year

The Portland Trail Blazers sit sadly at the bottom of the Northwestern conference. Although they are riding a four-game winning streak, the Blazers have no reservations for the playoffs. On the other hand, this summer will be a very exciting time for the NBA’s worst teams.

College basketball has been amazing this year. Some hot names this year are small forward Adam Morrison from Gonzaga, shooting guard JJ Redick and center Sheldon Williams, who are both out of Duke University. LaMarcus Aldridge from Texas has been one of the most impressive power forwards in the college. There are a few international players that are also making some headway in this year’s coming draft including Andrea Bargnani and Taigo Splitter.

The question is whether Portland will land one of this year’s phenomenal superstars or stupendous duds.

Portland is looking at a top pick unless they continue their win streak into April. The Trail Blazers are 14th in defense, holding opposing teams to 95.9 points per game. During the streak, Portland’s D has been even more tenacious. However the Blazers offense is second to last in the NBA, only scoring 88.5 points a game.

Portland’s young team is searching for a superstar to come in and take the reins. A perfect fit is Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison. Morrison has great intangibles, not only can he score from anywhere on the floor but he is a leader and inspires others to play hard. The small forward loves to get the ball in the clutch and be the one taking the last shot.

The Portland Trail Blazers need Zach Randolph to be the second leading scorer on the team so defense can’t just shut him down and take the game. Morrison works hard and would be a good clubhouse guy. Morrison will be taken if he falls to Portland, though that seems unlikely.

Although JJ Redick has been glamorized by the media for his spectacular jump shot and insane range, his NBA career will not be nearly as illustrious. Redick isn’t big enough for a typical NBA-sized shooting guard. He is an in-between player; too small and not athletic enough to defend a shooting guard and to slow to a cover an NBA point guard. Yet whether it is behind the arc, on the free throw line or a 10-foot jumper, Redick can hit from anywhere. Redick will likely fall late in the first round to the Detroit Pistons or another elite team with a late pick.

LaMarcus Aldridge is amazing. He moves with the speed of point guard but plays with the power of a big man. Being 6-11 helps his spectacular hook shots, but he can also impress with his fantastic range. Aldridge is a lethal finisher, often outrunning guards on fast breaks. He will probably be going number one overall to whichever team takes the lottery.

Andrea Bargnani has the best chance of knocking Aldridge into the number two spot. A seven-footer, Bargnani has easily been compared to a Dirk Nowitzki. He can handle the ball well and take shots from all over the court. Although he won’t be a typical center he could make an excellent splash as a power forward. As he grows and gets stronger he will be a force to reckon with in the future.

Theo Ratliff, back-up power forward/center, is aging quickly at 33 when the average age on the roster of 15 players is 24.8. The Trail Blazers may be looking for a strong defensive body to help back up the many young shooting guards that Portland already has.

In the 2006 NBA draft the Blazers may pick the international star Tiago Splitter of Spain. Splitter is averaging 8.2 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 0.5 blocks per game, down from seasons past, but his excellent size and ability in the paint could make him a superstar for Portland. The Spaniard has been compared to NBA players like Hornets PJ Brown and Grizzlies Pau Gasol. Being only 20 years old also helps and adds to the long list of youngsters.