Who’s it gonna be?
Following one of the most disappointing years in franchise history, the team has begun making moves to propel the roster back to its winning ways.
Here is a look at the expected starting lineup for the 2012 Portland Trail Blazers:
Point Guard—Damian Lillard
The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t draft Damian Lillard with the No. 6 pick in the NBA draft to watch him ride the bench.
The point guard position was arguably the biggest flaw in the Blazers’ roster last year, and Lillard will be expected to jump in and make plays for himself and his teammates from day one.
A lot of pressure, you say? That’s the kind of pressure that comes with being the draft’s top point guard and the overall sixth pick.
If the team had signed a veteran point guard this summer, such as Steve Nash or Goran Dragic, Lillard could have taken his time coming off the bench.
That won’t be the case, however, as Lillard will be The Man from the first day of the season.
Shooting Guard—Wesley Matthews
A 39.9 percent three-point shooter for his career, Matthews has the ability to get hot from beyond the arch—something not many of the players in the rotation can say at this point.
Where Matthews truly makes his mark, however, is on the defensive end.
With some of the best effort you’ll see on defense anywhere in the league, Matthews puts his great strength and quick hands to use to disrupt the opposing team’s perimeter players.
Will Barton (who was drafted in the second round #40 overall in the 2012 NBA Draft) and Elliot Williams should show promise off the bench next year, but they’ll need more experience to prove they’re ready to crack any team’s starting lineup.
Small Forward—Nicolas Batum
Much has been made about Nicolas Batum’s free agency situation this offseason, but when all is said and done, don’t be surprised to see the 23-year-old forward back in the starting lineup next season.
Having agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves worth $45-50 million—and thoughts regarding his desire to leave the Trail Blazers’ organization—there is the chance Portland chooses to let him walk.
But when it comes down to it, Batum is a restricted free agent and the Trail Blazers have the ultimate say in where he lands.
Assuming that he and his newly signed contract end up back in Portland next season, the starting small forward spot is all his.
Power Forward—LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge has become the team’s go-to scorer over the last two seasons, and barring any lingering health issues from his offseason surgery, nothing will keep the All-Star forward out of the starting lineup.
Aldridge averaged 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and shot a career-high 51.2 percent from the field last season.
Simply put: the power forward spot is his, and his only.
Leonard was drafted with the No. 11 pick, and as a rookie, he will face a lot of new challenges as the starting center.
That being said, Leonard measured in as the tallest player in the 2012 draft class and has the skills necessary to succeed as an NBA big man.
Leonard has the ability to score from above the rim or beyond the free-throw line. He is an extremely athletic big, and his presence will be especially felt under the basket on the defensive end of the floor.
Unless the Blazers pick up a big man in free agency—such as Javale McGee or Chris Kaman—expect the youngster to make his starting debut day one of the 2012-13 season.