But, the Blazers are a team in rebuilding (put on a 12 month hold by the injury to Greg Oden). They have talent at all their positions. LaMarcus Aldridge is an athletic big man with promise, Portland recently acquired Channing Frye from New York in the Z-Ran trade, reigning Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy is set to have another great year, and the ex-Nugget Steve Blake should feel right at home in his second stint with Portland. And, they too beat the injury depleted Clippers on Wednesday, 111-102.
My players to watch in tonight’s game are Von Wafer, Chucky Atkins (if he plays), Linas Kleiza, and J.R. Smith. We all know that the big three, (that’s right Boston- we have a big three too- and they are just as potent), are going to do their work, but there is a crazy little situation developing at the reserve shooting guard spot between J.R., LK, and ‘Nila. ‘Melo is going to play so many minutes this year that I’m now throwing LK into the shuffle for who is going to be the first guard off the bench for George Karl because he is too valuable of a player to collect cobwebs as he waits for Anthony to need a breather.
And the good thing about playing the Blazers tonight is we will be able to evaluate how all three players defend on Roy. Brandon was the Blazers leading scorer last year at a clip of 16.8 points per game and he is equally capable of shooting the lights out of the gym or challenging defenders at the rack. I suspect he will try to drive on Linas and J.R., but will try to test Wafer’s closing speed with his jumper. Remember, George Karl wants to stress defense this year and I think how each one of these three illustrates their commitment to stopping their delegated match-up is going to play a huge role in how the reserve minutes get divided.
My final prediction is Denver by six.