Saturday, December 02, 2006

The backcourt situation

Let me set up my own comments with this quote from Brian Meehan at The Oregonian:
Look for McMillan to play Jarrett Jack and Sergio Rodriguez together more often. Rodriguez gave Portland a boost again in the fourth quarter against Orlando. The rookie Spaniard is clever with the ball and beats just about anybody off the dribble.

His playing time has soared with Roy out -- from two minutes a game in the first five games to 13.3 in the last 11. And Rodriguez had recorded all 43 of his assists in the last 12 games.
This afternoon I drove down to Roseburg to find some paperwork I need to turn in on Monday. I didn't find it. But on my way back I was thinking about fantasy basketball. I recently added Jarrett Jack to two of my teams, because he's playing pretty well and I could use the assists and steals he's putting up. He's doing better than Telfair, I think, and I'm glad that we chose Jack over Bassy. That got me to thinking about our backcourt situation, and the Meehan quote is good for setting this up.

This update--which is also important for understanding our backcourt situation--was in The Oregonian today:
Rookie guard Brandon Roy will not make the Trail Blazers' six-game trip that begins next week, the team decided Friday. That was the bad news for the Blazers.

The good news was that Roy, who had a magnetic resonance imaging Friday, removed the boot he has been wearing for more than three weeks and said he hopes to play when the Blazers return from the stretch of road games.

"The scan showed improvement from the last one," said Roy, who missed his 12th game Friday because of pain in his left heel.

Roy said he hopes to be in the lineup Dec. 15, when the Blazers, who play Atlanta at home Sunday, will have returned from the nine-day trip and will play host to the Los Angeles Clippers. By that point, he will have missed 19 games.

While his teammates are gone, Roy said, he will try to strengthen his ankle and try to get back into basketball shape, conditioning in a pool before graduating to a stationary bike, then a treadmill.

"We're still trying to take this as slow as possible because right now we don't want to do the surgery," he said.

Coach Nate McMillan said the Blazers will continue to be cautious with their prized rookie.

"The doctors don't feel like we have to do anything, but we have to give him time," McMillan said. "How much time, no one knows."
Coming into this season the Blazers didn't know for sure who would play guard when and how much. There was a lot of speculation that Sergio Rodriguez would be sent to the D-league because he wasn't ready to play in the NBA. He is certainly still rough, but has proven that he knows how to run an offense and what to do with the ball. He gets all the minutes that many thought would go to Dickau at the beginning of the season. This might have to do with R-O-Y being out, as Meehan suggested, but I think we may get to see him play some even when R-O-Y gets back.

Jack has done a pretty good job of running the offense, and has put up impressive numbers so far. He is averaging 12.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 2.5 rpg, 1.47 spg, and 2.41 topg, to give him an assist/turnover ratio of 2.44. Sure, that's 22nd in the league, behind Telfair and our boy Damon Stoudamire, but it's not too bad for what he's working with: a young team that's still reeling from some big injuries. Also, he's averaging 8.1 assists per 48 minutes. Rodriguez, on the other hand, is averaging 14.7 assists per 48 minutes. He's only playing 12.7 mpg, but he's the only person to play more than one game who has a higher ap48 than Nash, who has 14.* Rodriguez is also third in the NBA with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.91. The only two players ahead of him are Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups. Rodriguez is only averaging 2.5 ppg, but 1.3 rpg, which is not too bad considering his small mpg number. What's the point of all these numbers? My point is that playing Jack and Rodriguez together might be really smart. Jack has done a much better job of picking his spots and making good shots. That was very clear in the New Jersey game I watched last week. And his points are showing it. Neither of them is great on defense, even though Jack gets the steals, so that will hurt us. But they both create well and free up their teammates. Outlaw plays better when Rodriguez is in there. Aldridge plays well with him too. The two did a good job at the same time last night against Orlando.

It may sound like I'm not saying anything new, but wait for it.

R-O-Y could be coming back soon. As much as the organization talked about him as a possible PG, they also mentioned that he could perhaps play SF. He might take a while to get back in the swing of things, but he's a good player on the both ends and makes his teammates better on offense and defense (something someone like Steve Nash knows nothing about).

Here's the new:

Play all three at the same time.

It probably won't be a good idea to play all three at the same time, but early in the season we tried small ball a little bit. Zach played center and Outlaw played power forward. If we played with Sergio at PG, JJ at SG, R-O-Y at SF, Travis at PF, and Z-Bo at C, we would get burned on defense. But we would also score a lot of points. Here's another way to run that lineup, since it would be for short spurts anyway: instead of having Zach play center, put LaMarcus there. That team would be able to run, and Aldridge is a better defender than Randolph, even if he doesn't get the same respect from the refs or have the body to do damage down there. Also, we could change it up by switching out JJ, putting R-O-Y at the SG spot and either putting Ime Udoka in at SF, or sliding Zach and Travis down and playing LaMarcus at center. Or we could just keep mixing it up.

My point is that our backcourt, which seemed so shaky before the season started, has probably developed more than it could have if R-O-Y hadn't hurt his heal. I'm still not happy that he got hurt, because we've missed him a lot. But this could turn out to be better in the long as it doesn't affect him negatively past his imminent return to the court. Before the season I thought that the potential of those three guards was really high, and that they would eventually become a very good trio. Now I think they could end up getting closer to that potential sooner than I had imagined.

The biggest thing that could keep that from happening is that none of the three are great outside shooters, so the defense can just play the lane. But maybe if Martell Webster starts getting some confidence and Raef LaFrentz comes back healthy, then they could be in the mix to pull defenders out to the perimeter.

I guess I just want to see Rodriguez continue to get playing time, even when R-O-Y gets back. Once again I'm convinced that the Blazers did a great job in the draft this year. All we have to do is wait to see how Joel Freeland turns out. As Ian Whittell, of The (London) Times, told ESPN back in September:
But enough of the semantics. Who is the next great international player out there? I could go for Britain's very own Joel Freeland, taken 30th by the Blazers in this year's draft, but even though one NBA European scout has told me he's convinced he could be as good as Nowitzki, Freeland's best is still more than a decade away.
We still have the potential to get Oden in the next draft. Put him together with those young guards, Aldridge, "the next Nowitzki," and maybe even Travis Outlaw, and we could develop into a great team in the next decade. I'm not going to be able to sleep now, because I'm so excited for the future of the Blazers.

*I apologize for using statistics in a dishonest way. Rodriguez hasn't played enough to be considered in the qualified version of ap48 on, but he has enough assists to be considered in the qualified version of ast/to. So I used one qualified version, when it made Rodriguez look good, and one unqualified version, also when it made Rodriguez look good. Although I don't think I skewed the truth too much.

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