Portland Trail Blazers in desperate need of backup depth

Lack of depth will lead to struggles this season

When one goes about constructing a championship, or even a contending team, it is common knowledge that five men will not win you a ring come the end of June.  Teams that find success go anywhere between seven to nine deep.

Let’s not fool anyone, the Trail Blazers, although they will battle this season, will not be contenders for anything other than possibly the eighth seed (baring injury).  

The problem is, after their starting five, the cupboard is bare.

When you look at the Blazers backups, here’s hoping that those who hear their name announced at the beginning of the night have eaten their Wheaties!

POINT GUARD: Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price

If you were to combine the two players together, you would have the ideal backup pg.  Nolan Smith saw about twelve minutes of burn last year as a rookie, playing behind an established vet in Raymond Felton, now he finds himself sitting behind a rookie.

If that isn’t motivation for the former Duke Blue Devil, I don’t know what is.

Averaging nearly 4 points and 1.5 assists per game in limited action, this would be the time that Smith establishes his path in the NBA.  Ronnie Price is on his fourth team in eight years.

Nolan Smith

If you were to combine Smith & Price together, you would have the ideal backup pg. (Photo Bruce Ely / The Oregonian)

Averaging 3.6 points and 1.4 assists in about eleven minutes of playing time, Price will likely be the third string point guard.

SHOOTING GUARD: Sasha Pavlovic and Elliot Williams

If Wesley Matthews can handle forty minutes a game for 82 games, the Blazers could be better off choosing that option rather than bringing in any of their backup shooting guards.

At the rate he is going, Pavlovic could be looking to tie Jimmy Jackson’s record of most teams in a career (13).

Playing for his seventh team in ten years, the rarely used hired gun doesn’t exactly strike fear into opposing defenses.

Williams has taken over for Greg Oden on the always injured list.  After missing his entire rookie season with a knee injury, he managed to make 24 appearances last year before sitting out with a dislocated shoulder.

This season, a torn Achilles has sidelined the twenty three year old.  Fingers crossed that Matthews does not see the IL at any point this season.

SMALL FORWARD: Luke Babbitt and Victor Claver

The one thing that Babbitt can do is shoot.  Coming out of Nevada, the Blazers figured that he would be the ideal backup to whomever manned the three spot in the starting lineup.

With the ability to extend the defense, Babbitt’s long range talent would provide multiple scoring options for the Blazers.

Unfortunately, the third year forward hasn’t quite found his way in the NBA, but hopefully new coach Terry Stotts can shine the light for the small forward.  

Claver is a 24 year old rookie from Spain looking to make the Blazers fans forget about Rudy Fernandez.

Four years after being drafted by Portland, Victor Claver will be given every opportunity to steal Babbitt’s minutes.

At 6’9″, 240lbs, Claver can provide physical matchup problems on both ends of the court when playing the small forward spot, however the history of success for players from Spain has been little, so the mental hurdle is one that he will have to get over.

POWER FORWARD: Joel Freeland

Another aged Blazers draft pick, Freeland was selected 30th overall by Portland in 2006.  At 25 years old, the 6″11, 230lb Englishman has the ability to provide the Blazers with rebounding and a nice mid-range jumper.

What remains to be seen, as with Claver, will be his ability to adapt to the NBA game.

Joel Freeland

The amount of minutes Freeland receives is basically dependent on his production. (Photo AP Ross D. Franklin)

The amount of minutes Freeland receives is basically dependent on his production, as the third member of the depth chart is Jared Jeffries, who was treated like sloppy seconds by Houston and New York for three years before signing with the Blazers.

CENTER: Myers Leonard

This could be the one spot in which the Blazers actually have some significant depth.  While one Blazer rookie will be given the green light from the start of the season, the other will have to work his way into the lineup.

After two years at Illinois, Leonard will find himself coming off the bench to back up JJ Hickson.

Still a raw talent, it will serve Leonard well not having to step into the fire right away.  Some sandwich Leonard as a comparison between Brook and Robin Lopez.

If such is the case and possibly leaning more towards Brook, the Blazers big man will do fine.

There is a chance that Freeland can slide over to the five spot as well.

So when all is said and done and you take the top reserves at their respective positions, the Trail Blazers second unit provides three players who have never seen a second of NBA floor time, two well traveled journeymen, a third year player who has yet to find his way and a second year point guard who has been overtaken by a rookie.  

Based on last years NBA numbers, the Blazers need more than their fingers crossed if they hope for any significant production.

2011-12 average stats for the 2012-13 key reserves:

41 games played (66 game season) 1.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 3.7 points.


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About Steve Lee

Steve is a 12 year writing vet, and writes for a number of sports sites, offering a unique and abstract look at the games we love. He still hopes the Grizz + Sonics return to the Northwest, and has been a Lakers fan since "Showtime".
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