Online Exclusives: The Blazers and their championship window

The term “championship window” is pretty lame.  It’s simply not accurate to limit a team to a specific timeline, claiming that only within a predicted window can they can win a title.

The term “championship window” is pretty lame.  It’s simply not accurate to limit a team to a specific timeline, claiming that only within a predicted window can they can win a title. A lot can change in the NBA from one season to the next, and nobody can predict the future, right?

Yet ESPN’s J.A. Adande recently pointed out that the Portland Trail Blazers are at the target average age to win a championship. Statistically speaking, based on research from Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” the Blazers have entered into the “age of champions.”

In other words, Portland’s roster has the right blend of veterans with the savvy to know what to do and players still young enough to go out and get it done. 

So, is the wait coming to an end?  Are the Blazers a legitimate title threat entering into their championship window?  Three games into the regular season, the Blazers are proving the predictions correct. 

Portland is undefeated with a 3-0 record and has outscored opponents 85-49 in the fourth quarter. Fifth-year veterans Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge have been the productive pillars the franchise has come to expect. That, combined with the continuing development of 21-year-old Nicholas Batum and the veteran leadership of Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, signifies that perhaps Paul Allen and his mad scientists at Vulcan have found the perfect mix of elements. 

Although less than 4 percent of the regular season has been played, here are three conclusions about the Blazers so far.  Keep your grains of salt handy. 

One: The Blazers never needed Jerry Bayless.  This isn’t necessarily a knock on Bayless.  It’s just that his skill set as a combo guard doesn’t fit what Portland needs.  Ideally, the Blazers could use a pure point guard that can spot up for the open three-pointer, which Bayless wasn’t.  At least Miller is a true point guard who can lead the offense. 

Two: The Blazers have always needed Rudy Fernandez.  Let’s forget about all the summer drama and focus on what he brings to this team. 

Under coach Nate McMillan’s system, the Blazers run a possession-oriented offense that emphasizes decision-making and efficient execution.  In order to have optimal success with a slow-down style, the Blazers need to have playmakers on the court—  players like Fernandez or Wesley Mathews, who thrive in half-court sets because of their high basketball IQ, decision-making and passing ability. This is a big part of why the Blazers have only averaged 12.6 turnovers per game so far, and have been able to turn it up in the fourth quarter, execute down the stretch and consistently come up with clutch plays. 

Three: It doesn’t matter if the Blazers need Greg Oden or not. 

Some fans say they’re not even that excited about the season starting, but will be excited when Oden finally comes back.  What a shame.

If Oden somehow doesn’t work out, then life for the franchise must go on. Portland has played 164 games without their young center and not only has the team done well, but it has still shown improvement despite all the setbacks.  That’s a healthy sign because, as weird as it sounds, in many ways the games the team plays without Oden are more important than the ones with him. 

Regardless, the Blazers should contend for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference this year and anything less than home-court in the first round of the playoffs would be a disappointment.  The championship window for the Blazers has opened, although just a crack. 

But the tricky thing about opening up windows is that it can be hard to get the conditions just right.  If you let in too much cold air, things get chilly and the heater comes on, but if you don’t open the window at all, it gets stuffy inside. 

Just remember, opening up the championship window may “let things breathe a little” or provide a sense of relief, since Portland has finally arrived, so to speak. But doing done so too early, when the team isn’t ready, may build up pressure from all the heavy expectations and could put a freeze on all the progress.

Getting the window open is one thing, but moving through to the other side is always the hardest part.