Portland Trail Blazers 2002-03: Insert Joke Here
- Shawn Kemp (Age as of June 19, 2003: 33)
- Steve Kerr (37)
- Antonio Daniels (28)
- Arvydas Sabonis (38)
- Qyntel Woods (22)
- Jeff McInnis (28)
Record: 50-32, 3rd in Pacific, 6th in Western Conference
II. Season Overview
Another Slow Start (10-11)
Much like the previous season, Portland got off to a slow start. After going 11-15 to start '01-02, the Blazers stumbled out of the gates to the tune of a 10-11 record in mid-December. Rasheed Wallace looked out of shape, Damon Stoudamire looked horrible and the team just looked generally disinterested if not outright bad.
After a Friday the 13th horror show (a 22 point loss at Milwaukee where I was unfortunate enough to attend courtside) the team, as always, geared up for a mid-season run.
Another Excellent Middle (29-9)
Again, much like the previous season, Portland rebounded from a terrible start. While they went 26-6 following their poor opening efforts in '01-02, the Blazers almost matched that with a 29-9 run starting with an inspiring OT win on December 14 in Minnesota (pushing them to the .500 mark) and ending with a 17 point home win over Detroit on March 2 that saw Bonzi score 37 points against the team that drafted him and left the Blazers sitting at 39-20 and eyeing first place in the Pacific division.
So what was different? Rasheed Wallace was in better shape and shooting better. Bonzi Wells was playing incredible basketball. And Damon Stoudamire was rotting on the bench. Whether it was really Damon being out of the rotation (behind Jeff McInnis as the backup for most of the time) or just Scottie Pippen's presence in the lineup at the point is unclear. Either way, a healthy Scottie proved to be a huge advantage, especially defensively, over Damon.
Slow Finish but Decent Playoff Showing (11-12 & 3-4)
To continue the parallels with the previous year's team, Portland once again cooled off to end the regular season. '01-02 finished 8-8 and limped into the playoffs... similarly, the '02-03 Blazers, severely hampered by a Scottie Pippen injury that thrust Damon back into prominence and the starting lineup, only went 11-12 to end the regular season.
The final game of the year, in particular, was painful. Portland went into Staples Center to play a team that had nothing to play for. Considered by many a team on the rise-one of the teams that would help end Portland's record playoff streak-before the season started, the Clippers were 26-55 and wrapping up a woeful campaign. Portland was in a three-way struggle for Home Court Advantage in the playoffs, or at least a matchup with the Timberwolves. Instead, Portland sleepwalked its way to a 14 point loss and a first round matchup with the 60-win Mavericks.
The Blazers played well the first two games but were blown out in their own building in Game 3. Unlike the previous season, where 3 losses had eliminated them from the postseason, the Blazers got a new lease on life in the best-of-7 series and almost took advantage of it... forcing a Game 7 and leading with 10 minutes to go before they ran out of gas.
III. Draft History
- 1993: James Robinson (21) Alabama (Traded in JR Rider deal)
- 1993: Kevin Thompson (48) NC State (Waived)
- 1994: Aaron McKie (17) Temple (Traded in Stacey Augmon deal)
- 1994: Shawnelle Scott (43) St. John's (Waived)
- 1995: Shawn Respert (8) Michigan State (Traded for Gary Trent)
- 1996: Jermaine O'Neal (17) Eau Claire HS (S.C.) (Traded for Dale Davis)
- 1996: Marcus Brown (46) Murray State (Waived)
- 1997: Chris Anstey (18) SE Melbourne (Australia) (Traded for Kelvin Cato)
- 1997: Alvin Williams (48) Villanova (Traded in Stoudamire deal)
- 1998: No selection (Traded in Stoudamire deal)
- 1999: No selection (Traded for Bonzi Wells)
- 2000: Erick Barkley (28) St. John's (Traded in Antonio Daniels deal)
- 2001: Zach Randolph (18) Michigan State (Still on Blazers)
- 2001: Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (44) Georgetown (Still on Blazers)
- 2002: Qyntel Woods (21) Northeast Mississippi CC (Still on Blazers)
- 2002: Jason Jennings (43) Arkansas State (Played overseas)
- 2002: Federico Kammerichs (51) Argentina (Played overseas)
IV. Management and Coaching
Last year, I said that Paul Allen should keep doing what he's doing: try his hardest to bring championships to Portland. If he isolates some fans in Portland: big deal. They'll be back, or they'll be missing out on all the fun.
I still think that, and I still think he's the best owner in the NBA.
Considering it's his team, and his tens of millions of dollars at stake, he's understandably a bit less willing to ignore the complaining of some Blazers fans, and whether he forced Bob Whitsitt out of the Presidency/General Manager role or not, Paul Allen has talked publicly more about character and fiscal responsibility in the last two months than he has in the last decade. Whether this is merely placating words or a general shift in the direction of the team remains to be seen.
Whitsitt it out. Steve Patterson is in as president, and the GM position will be shortly filled. Current leading candidates appear to be Ed Stefanski, John Hammond, Chris Wallace and Mark Warkentien. Stefanski, head scout from New Jersey, is reportedly on the verge of getting the job.
It remains to be seen how the new management team will perform. From a public relations perspective, they can scarcely do worse than Whitsitt has done, especially over the last few years. From a basketball perspective (which is the primary lasting factor and the most important thing in my opinion) they'll be hard-pressed to do better.
Many Blazers fans and Portland media members dismiss the Blazers' continuing success as mediocrity or as the mere result of outspending other players. His acquisition of Rasheed Wallace (for Rod Strickland and Harvey Grant) was one of the best moves in Blazers history, and the acquisitions of Bonzi Wells and Scottie Pippen were genius.
Cheeks still looks like he might be a pretty good coach, but I think that he still has a long ways to go before he's above average. He's still feeling his way along in terms of substitution patterns and the offensive execution seems spotty (which might be more of a problem with his players than his plays). Off the court with the players, he seems to be a bit inconsistent, especially with Damon Stoudamire (reportedly he's convinced Damon is once again the Blazers' PG after a strong couple of games against Dallas in the playoffs... hopefully it's just a rumor).
There were reports that Philly wanted Cheeks as their coach, and it seems inevitable that Mo will end up there someday. I think the team would have been smart to let him talk to the 76ers and then extracted future picks from the team for letting him become their head coach. Rick Carlisle, Jeff Van Gundy and other qualified coaches were available and the Blazers would have come out ahead. As it is, with a new GM coming on board and Mo entering the last year of his contract, I would not be surprised to see Mo go to Philadelphia next year and the Blazers on the lookout for a coach the GM wants to run the team.
- Jim Lynam (College - St. Joseph's (PA) '63)
- Dan Panaggio (College - SUNY Brockport '74)
- Herb Brown (College - Vermont '57)
No Player Pos Ht Wt B-day College Exp
1 Derek Anderson ........ G 6-5 195 7/18/74 Kentucky'97 6
3 Damon Stoudamire ...... G 5-10 171 9/3/73 Arizona'95 8
5 Jeff McInnis .......... G 6-4 179 10/22/74 UNC'97 6
6 Bonzi Wells ........... G-F 6-5 213 9/20/76 Ball State'98 5
7 Charles R. Smith ...... G 6-4 194 8/22/75 New Mexico'97 4
10 Antonio Daniels ....... G 6-4 205 3/19/75 Bowling Green'97 6
11 Arvydas Sabonis ....... C 7-3 292 12/19/64 Lithuania 7
14 Chris Dudley .......... C 6-11 260 2/22/65 Yale'87 16
21 Ruben Patterson ....... F 6-5 224 7/31/75 Cincinnati'98 5
24 Qyntel Woods .......... G-F 6-7 213 2/16/81 NE Mississippi CC'04 1
30 Rasheed Wallace ....... F-C 6-11 225 9/17/74 UNC'97 8
33 Scottie Pippen ........ F 6-7 228 9/25/65 C. Arkansas'87 16
34 Dale Davis ............ F 6-11 252 3/25/69 Clemson'91 12
44 Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje . C 7-0 245 5/20/78 Georgetown'01 2
50 Zach Randolph ......... F 6-9 270 7/16/81 Michigan State'04 2
VI. Positional Analysis:
Dale Davis: A great center? No. As good as Jermaine O'Neal, for whom he was trade 3 summers ago? No. But a serviceable player, that's capable of outplaying 80% of starting centers? Absolutely. He does the dirty work (including, unfortunately, some dirty/cheap plays) that the Blazers need from their 5: rebounding, interior defense and shotblocking. I hate to re-hash what I wrote last year, but Davis was steady if unspectacular again this year. His injury that forced him to miss Game 7 against Dallas might have been the single largest reason the Blazers were again knocked out of the first round.
Arvydas Sabonis: A fan favorite. One of the greatest centers and international players of all time. A physically broken man with a questionable commitment to the NBA game. Sabonis had some nice moments both during the regular season and the playoffs, but it was tough to tell if his limited minutes were the result of his injuries or just a coaching strategy by Cheeks. Either way, the team didn't get much out of him this season and his reported leave of the Blazers wouldn't adversely affect the team on the court. Off the court, however, a decent chunk of Blazers fans will probably never recover...
Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje: From promising rookie to forgotten second-year man... what happened? Sabonis's return and ZR's emergence helped limit RBB to an incredibly low 5 minutes in 2 games for Portland last year. He's still only 24, and he's still a shot-blocking seven footer, and in spite of his lack of opportunity last year I'm still glad he's a Blazer.
Chris Dudley: Chris Dudley ripped massive amounts of playing time away from RBB this year... while Boumtje-Boumtje only got 5 minutes, Dudley totaled 11 in three games. It seems that the Blazers could have done without Chris Dudley this season, but I guess by staying out of legal trouble he helped in some regard.
Rasheed Wallace: Wallace is the best player on the Blazers. He's a very good defender who plays excellent team basketball, but he's also a guy most Blazers fans can't relate to and he still hasn't got his irrational antipathy towards referees under control. Because of his poor start, his suspension for threatening a ref in the loading dock area of the Rose Garden, his citation for marijuana and his unwillingness to speak to the media in a meaningful way, the Portland media and many fans are willing to get rid of him at any cost. I think that while Rasheed has failed to live up to his potential as a player in Portland, he should not be moved unless it's part of a big trade that brings a lot of value back to Portland.
Zach Randolph: From prep monster to college freshman bench player to summer league MVP to NBA benchwarmer to summer league stud (again) to NBA benchwarmer (again) to offensive powerhouse in the playoffs. He's just dominated wherever he's received a chance to play. Some are willing to trade Wallace not just because of his "character" but because it would clear more time for ZR to play. While I am a Zach fan, I still have my doubts about his upside because of his limited size and athleticism, but I hope he proves me wrong. I also hope his cheap-shot practice punch on Ruben Patterson was a one-time lapse in judgment and not an indication of a thug who knows how to score on the blocks.
Scottie Pippen: The Blazers were at their best each of the last two years when Scottie was running the point. Unfortunately, he's just too old and beat up to be able to withstand the rigors of handling the responsibility (and, perhaps, the rigors of the NBA game altogether) and he hasn't been healthy enough to contribute in the last few playoff series. He's had a great career, and he still has intangibles to add to a team, but the Blazers might be better served to let Pippen retire or go to another team unless he's willing to come back to the team at a reasonable price.
Ruben Patterson: Personal issues still dog Patterson, and he might be shipped out of Portland as a sacrificial lamb to the PR-worshippers, but if he sticks around with the Blazers he'll continue to provide energy and great defense off the bench. Still only 27, Patterson has shown signs of improving his offensive game and if his mid-range jumper can improve at all he'll become even more valuable.
Qyntel Woods: Nice NBA body with a good-looking jumper and nice handle... Paul Allen had a "Qyntel Woods moment" on draft day as the once-surefire-lottery prospect slid to Portland at #23. Unfortunately, Woods was caught without a license and in possession of marijuana (he reportedly confessed to an addiction to the stuff) and was cast as the latest in a long line of Whitsitt "talent over character" picks. It's still not clear whether Woods will work hard enough to cash in on his talent, and whether the Blazers have a future all-star or future punch-line on their hands.
Bonzi Wells: Bonzi's early-season slump was an ugly thing. As a Wells fan, I'd like to write it off to a late-summer contract agreement that kept him off the practice floor and out of harm's way, but I'm not sure. He had some tremendous games this year, including a 46 point game in a game 2 loss to Dallas and 37 points against Detroit... but he lacked consistency and sometimes didn't give a very good defensive effort. He also allegedly spit on Danny Ferry (but really, who hasn't?) and was suspended for a game for an argument with Mo Cheeks. Some fans are still steamed about a quote Wells gave to Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago, and so he's Public Enemy #2 in a lot of Blazers' fans' eyes. Personally, I still see things in Bonzi Wells that will one day make him an all-star: his defensive anticipation, his scoring ability on the blocks and his excellent passing ability. I don't think that having him at the small forward spot, which is where he played alongside Derek Anderson and Scottie Pippen for much of the year, is a good place for him long-term and he deserves to go back to the starting off guard spot.
Derek Anderson: He ALMOST made it. 76 regular season games out of 82 were ones that Derek Anderson started for the Blazers... an awesome number for the man made of glass. After no points in 19 minutes of Game 1 against the Mavs, though, DA scored a layup 3 minutes into Game 2 and promptly went down with an injury... one that would cost him the rest of the series. Not a surprise, but definitely another disappointment. Anderson does many things well, and it seems likely that his shooting percentage will improve as he ages (his form is excellent, and I think he'll get smarter about when to shoot), but he's so fragile that it's sad and he plays the same position as Bonzi, so hopefully Cheeks has the courage to bring him off the bench and hopefully he has the wisdom to accept it.
Damon Stoudamire: Damon had a pretty good series against Dallas after having a nightmare of a regular season. The team slumped when he was in the starting lineup and flourished when he was at the end of the bench. He's only got 2 years left on the massive contract he signed, and if Portland can't get value in trade for him this summer, he should be worth something as an expiring contract next year. In the meantime, though, he might do something crazy like actually hold onto the starting PG job for the Blazers.
Jeff McInnis: A good FA signing, in my opinion: he's cheap, he's got good size, and he's a heck of a lot better than either Erick Barkley or Rick Brunson, who were the disastrous backups in '01-02 at the point spot. McInnis is rumored to be a locker room troublemaker, but for what it's worth he seemed like one of the few guys who were showing interest in the outcome of every game; whether he was in the game or on the bench, he was excited and seemed to want to win. That's more than can be said for a lot of NBA players. On the court, he had a lot of rough spots but if he's with Portland next year I think he'll settle down and be a nice piece for the team.
Antonio Daniels: It seemed like a great deal at the time: old, slow, one-dimensional Steve Kerr for younger, athletic, bigger Antonio Daniels. Another Whitsitt coup, right? Well, not exactly. Evidently, the Spurs were right that AD is not a PG, because he played almost exclusively the backup 2. His perimeter shooting, which was a strength with the Spurs, pretty much deserted him all season as he bricked his way to 30.5% from 3 point range (actually an improvement from his previous year of 29.1% but well below his career 32.6%). Daniels DID play some good defense, and he did have some nice dunks, but Antonio looks like a better player than he actually is... and it would be surprising if he's back in Portland next year.
Charles Smith: He somehow managed to get almost as many minutes as RBB and Dudley combined: 13. Luckily the Blazers stashed him on the IL all year, huh? At age 27, if the former Heat first rounder can get healthy, he might still have a future in the league... but I wouldn't bet on it.
VII. Team Needs/Potential Offseason Moves
Last year, I put the priorities as
- Someone to stop Shaq,
- A PG that can make shots or will pass the basketball, and
- More youth.
These are still the top three needs in my opinion.
With Woods they got at least PART of it right, but the first two matters are still glaring weaknesses. The Lakers didn't get a fourth ring, but Shaq is still the man most capable of destroying the Blazers in a playoff series, and another big body (with Sabonis probably leaving and Dudley retiring) is a must.
PG was ameliorated somewhat by Pippen's play at the spot, but he's old, broken down and a FA. Hopefully the Blazers can lure Payton to Portland with the Mid-Level Exception and plug him into the lineup. Failing that, Portland will have to invest either via trade or the draft in a young PG because the position has been pretty barren for the last several years.
With Woods and Randolph, Portland has a nice pair to work with, develop, and potentially build around. Successfully adding another piece this year in the draft would solidify the post-Whitsitt (and, at some point, post-Rasheed) future.
VIII. My Selection:
Sofoklis Schortsanitis: the latest "baby Shaq", he's dropped precipitously in some mock drafts (including this one). He might be too big and young to pass up. Considering the Blazers have Wallace and ZR and Schortsanitis seems too short to play the 5, he's not a slam-dunk, but he's a good value at this spot.
IX. Other Players Considered
(italics denotes player previously taken in UseNet draft, but perhaps available in actual draft)
Luke Ridnour: slipping in the mocks but would fill a need and be a popular pick with the fans
Leandrinho Barbosa: another guy reportedly slipping. Would be great to see him slip to Portland, who could afford to wait and let him develop his English skills and his game.
Boris Diaw: seems to be a Pippen-like prospect... great size to be able to run a team... one that reportedly is very good defensively but not aggressive offensively. Sounds like he would fit in well.
Aleksandar Pavlovic: a very good shooter, very athletic. One of the top prospects out of Yugoslavia. A scout for the Nets called him, "The best shooter in the draft." Sounds like a guy Portland can use, in spite of already having Wells, Anderson, Qyntel Woods, Ruben Patterson and maybe Scottie Pippen at the 2 and 3 positions. Was going to be my choice until he was picked at #22.
Carlos Delfino: well-rounded player from the land of Manu. According to ESPN.com he's a stronger, tougher Ginobili but he's got a questionable shot selection. He's recovering from an injury, but he sounds like a legit NBA player.
Marcus Banks: I was very close to choosing Banks, but I've been burned in the past by taking Frank Williams and Jacque Vaughn. This time around I'm going with a bigger guy.
Zoran Planinic: recovering from an auto accident, but his size (6'6") for a PG is impressive. #23 is a bit too high for him, I think.
Ndudi Ebi: very good prep player, and reportedly a smart guy. Would be an interesting pick for the Blazers to develop.
Travis Outlaw: another high schooler, this one rumored to be on his way to PDX on draft night. That's to be seen, but his athleticism is off the charts and he'd be a decent gamble for the Blazers to stash on the bench/IL for a couple of years.
X. Likely Blazers Selection
The Blazers are currently rumored to have guaranteed to Travis Outlaw that they would take him. Outlaw, a super-athletic high schooler, would be a big project but he's a high-reward type of player. It seems a bit too tidy that so many people are saying the Blazers will take Outlaw, so I'm not believing it.
David West is a guy that the Blazers have made noises about being interested in (at least "his type" in terms of maturity and character). Unless ZR or Rasheed were moved, though, West would rot on the bench... which doesn't make sense for a guy who's as "old" as he is. He doesn't fill a need and his potential is limited.
Brian Cook is another guy who has been attributed to Portland in mocks, but I don't see them drafting him for the same reason.
If one of the top PGs (Ridnour, Barbosa, Gaines) slip to Portland, I think they'll take him (of course, I've said the same thing about Jacque Vaughn and Frank Williams, and have been wrong twice running). If Diaw or Schortsanitis or maybe Badiane is still around, the Blazers could look their way.
I'll guess Leandrinho Barbosa or Travis Outlaw will be the Blazers' pick on June 26.