By Jonathan Ryan Davis
1) Blazers Up-tempo Offense: The Portland Trail have vowed once again to speed up their offense. Nate McMillan even reduced the shot clock to 20 seconds for the Fan Fest to encourage a quicker tempo. Yet, unlike previous years, it seems like the trees are aligned for this change to actually occur. First off, Portland acquired Raymond Felton, a player who thrives in the open court, and they will start the season with the freak athlete known as "Crash." As well, Batum, Matthews, and LMA have yet to be unleashed into a more open, fast-paced offense that can exploit their physical gifts. Yet, the biggest reason an up-tempo offense is likely to occur this year is the departure of Andre Miller and the retirement of Brandon Roy. These players will be sorely missed; however, Portland was stuck in a half-court, isolation based offense that thrived because of Roy's unique skill-set. With this style, many Blazers' gifts were stymied. Now, the Blazers can and should run. Tonight should tell us a lot about whether the change of pace is an false-intention or an actuality.
2) Will Aldridge Be the Man: This is LaMarcus Aldridge's team now. Can he be the man? Odds are, it will take LMA a week or two to get into playing shape after his heart procedure; though, we will see tonight whether Aldridge can take control of the paint, dominate the boards, and become a force on both ends of the floor. Moreover, it will be critical to see how the Blazers integrate Aldridge into their new offense (because the second pre-season game was quite ugly).
3) How Deep Will the Rotation Be: Will McMillan use an 8-man rotation with Crawford playing the point with the second unit? Will he use Nolan Smith, Elliot Smith, or Armon Johnson? Will Chris Johnson serve as a backup to Marcus Camby or will Kurt Thomas monopolize that role? Will Luke Babbitt even be activated? Odds are, we will be asking these questions over the first month because McMillan doesn't know what will work yet. How could he? He had two weeks to get ready for the craziest 66-game schedule in NBA history. When all is over, this team is so deep that McMillan will likely employ a 10-man rotation. In order to survive the schedule, Portland must take advantage of this depth compared to other teams that won't be able to go deeper than 8 men.
There are likely many more storylines to follow, but the three above will give us a great preview of the season we are about to undertake.
Blazers basketball is back! Go Blazers!!