For the past week or so I've been trying to look at how the teams around the league are shaping up, as well as whether a special player that might help the Pistons might be available. As much as I have a distaste for the huge contracts and the state of confusion that results from so many players moving around the league, I have to also admit that I find it interesting and in many ways an education of how teams imagine players fit their strategies to get better, or at least, how they believe they can make their teams better.
One team I have found particularly interesting to look at is the Portland Trail Blaizers. They have undergone an dramatic transformation over the past year. It's likely that they may start two first-round draft picks this year too. For several years we've all waited to see how Greg Oden might transform this team into a powerhouse. This past winter the team released him believing that he likely would fail to play yet again this year.
In Oden's place the team drafted Myers Leonard, 20, to be their future center. He was definitely one of the players often mentioned as perhaps being a viable option for the Pistons to also consider drafting. Leonard as it turns out was actually the Trail Blaizer's second first round pick, number 11 overall, after they used their 6th overall first round pick to select Damian Lillard, 22, a PG.
I had campaigned for the Pistons to make some moves to perhaps obtain Lillard, since I believe him to be the most NBA-ready player in this year's draft. Of course that ship has since sailed, and I doubt that I had really anticipated until very near to just a day or two before the draft that Andre Drummond might fall to us as the 9th overall pick.
Since both of Portland's picks were players I had hoped might become Pistons, I'm eager to see how they wind up performing this season. From what I've read, I'm led to believe they will start along with SG Wes Matthews, 25, SF Nicholas Batum, 23, and PF LaMarcus Aldridge, 27. Lillard will play the point and Leonard will be the center.
Two other rookies Will Barton, SG, and Kostas Papanikolaou, F, may also play a great deal as well. Nolan Smith the team's prior year #1 draft pick, will be their reserve point guard. Luke Babbitt, SF, 23, a 2 year veteran and the #16 overall draft pick in 2010, JJ Hickson, F/C, 23, already a 4 year veteran, drafted #19 overall in 2008, and Victor Claver, F/C, a rookie drafted 22nd overall in 2009, but who has played overseas since, may be this season's other key contributors. It's possible that either Dan Gradzuric, 34, or Joel Przyzbilla, 32, may be the wily gray beards used to help defend the low post.
The Portland team overall should prove to be one of the youngest squads in the NBA, with their starters averaging just 23.4 years of age. In many ways I see the same cultural shift, or perhaps it is simply an alignment of youth and talent being blended together on the Pistons, but of course with a few more veterans added to the mix.
Our possible starters of Brandon Knight, 20, at PG, Rodney Stuckey, 26, at SG, possibly Kyle Singler, 24, at SF, Greg Monroe, 22, at PF, and Andre Drummond, 19, at C, would average to be even younger than Portland's with an average age of just 22.2 years. However, it may be more reasonable to believe that Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell will remain the starters at least for the first half of the year, and increase our starting group's age to 25.6.
With Corey Maggette, 32, Will Bynum, 29, Charlie Villanueva, 27, and possibly Ben Wallace, 38, our supporting cast would be much older than Portland's at first blush. Although, Jonas Jarebko, 25, Kim English, 23, Khris Middleton, 20, Vyascheslav Kravtsov, 24, and Austin Daye, 24, help to keep the youth movement theme more in tact.
Perhaps beyond youth, these teams may appear to be built much differently. Matthews and Batum are slashing wings. Lillard is a scoring point guard. The front court however is very similar to the Piston's tandem - an offensive big paired with an athletic defensive big: Aldridge is similar to Monroe, as Leonard in many respects is similar to Drummond. Yet, although Knight and Stuckey are designated as guards, and will handle the ball much more than Matthews and Batum, their roles are similar in many respects to that of the Portland duo's. While a player like Singler may be the key to distributing the ball as a point forward.
All of this comparison might be for naught depending on exactly how the team's depth ultimately is used. Prince and Maggette are sure to see plenty of action, but are they again similar to the slashers of Portland? Jarebko, Villanueva, and Kravtsov may or may not play similarly to Papanikolaou, Babbitt, and Hickson. Lastly, I tend to believe that Smith is not the same kind of player as English, although perhaps much more like Bynum.
It will be interesting to see how the two teams fare. Since they are in different divisions and conferences of the NBA the match-ups they face will vary. I find it particularly intriguing though to see how they match up when they play face-to-face. The only player I don't see us matching up well comes down to one: Damian Lillard.
Ideally we could find a player with a similar nature to combat his style and be his eventual equal. Otherwise, we will have to dominate in another area of the floor.