Blazers for now
Rip City fans have an uncanny ability to love and cherish their team, and as a result, the players are often considered Trail Blazers For Life instantly upon their arrival.
The team has seen quite a bit of turnover the past few seasons, and with the current rebuilding process just getting under way, there are a handful of players who could disappear if the team can’t return to prominence this year.
Elliot Williams has the potential to be a rotation player off the bench for any NBA squad. His athleticism is top-tier in this league and he’s shown that he can produce when his number is called.
The problem? The 23-year-old out of Memphis has had three season-ending surgeries in his three years with the Trail Blazers.
Staying healthy is key around Portland, and with the inability to do so thus far, he may find himself looking for another team willing to take the chance.
Victor Claver has yet to see the floor in regular season action, but at this point in his young career, it’s fair to question how well his game will translate to the NBA level.
The 6’9” forward is the definition of a tweener, as his skill set doesn’t quite fit into either the small forward or power forward position. Claver may be able to make a living off his shot, but we thought the same thing about his fellow Spaniard Rudy Fernandez, didn’t we?
Luke Babbitt went from perennial punch line to somewhat of a fan favorite with his performance late last season. He went from averaging three minutes and .8 points in January to 24.6 minutes and 8.6 points in the month of April.
Babbitt is the kind of player who could thrive in a Terry Stotts offense, but that’s exactly why he’ll be heavily scrutinized if he reverts back to his old ways.
The 6’9” forward has a very good shot, but when it’s not falling, it’s tough to find an area on the floor where he’ll find success. He’s not the most dynamic player, so he needs to make a name for himself as a lights-out shooter, and he needs to do it this year.
Trail Blazers fans learned to love J.J. Hickson late last year, and they were thrilled to find out that the team re-signed him for the 2012-13 season.
His deal, however, is only for one year, and by the time free agency comes around, he’ll be ready to earn his first big contract.
Hickson is currently playing center for the Blazers, which means two things. First, he is extremely undersized, and two, he has a rookie center itching to take his starting spot.
If Hickson is willing to play behind LaMarcus Aldridge moving forward, there’s a spot for him on this roster as long as he wants it. But Hickson is young, and he’s looking for a place where he can start and truly make a name for himself.
Wesley Matthews joined the Trail Blazers after his first season in the NBA, and he earned himself a hefty contract that the Utah Jazz simply weren’t willing to match.
Unfortunately for Matthews and his fans, that contract could be the reason he find himself exiting Portland sometime this season.
John Hollinger of ESPN (Insider) has projected that the Trail Blazers are going to finish dead last in the Northwest division, and could look to trade Matthews at the deadline in order to create free-agent flexibility next offseason.
If Matthews proves this year the he can be a consistent option on offense, his spot on the team is safe. If he can’t, the team may look to go another direction while continuing to rebuild.