In the off season and pre-season, Blazer fans were wildly proposing trades to fill the two biggest problem spots on the Blazer roster. Conventional wisdom held that Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy locked down the Center, Power Forward, and Shooting Guard locations but the Blazers were in big need of help at the Small Forward and Point Guard positions.
One of the most popular names circulating was Shawn Marion. Without bothering to see if it made sense from the Heat point of view, it was assumed Portland could pry him away for essentially the expiring Raef LaFrentz contract and spare change.
For the Blazers, it seemed to make sense. Marion is an excellent wing defender, a great transition scorer, and can drill the three. He would step into the starting line-up, provide them their key defender and some added scoring punch, act as the sinecure "veteran", and fill their second biggest hole.
This would allow Portland to move some combination of Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw, Channing Frye, Sergio Rodriguez and/or Steve Blake to pry loose a premier point guard from some other team.
Just 10 or 12 games into the season it is illuminating to see how much the landscape has changed. Nicolas Batum has been a nice surprise, Webster's injury had the rather ironic impact of whetting fans' appetites for his return, and Marion no longer looks quite the prize he once did.
Suddenly Portland fans are starting to realize what they should have known all along. This team is pretty hard to improve on already. The players mesh very well together and fulfill the roles needed on the current roster.
Webster is an above average long-range shooter who is rumored to have improved his defense. He was showing flashes last year of developing into a better than average wing defender and training camp reports this year had that much improved.
Travis Outlaw has taken a small step back offensively but is improving his defense. He can still create his own shot and at times does a nice job on the boards, though he does disappear occasionally as well.
Batum has been a revelation. His on the ball defense is already good and his help defense at times spectacular. He consistently hits the open jumper and three-ball and is good on the boards. His production is excellent for the time he gets but Portland is just too deep even at Small Forward for him to get more time.
Marion is no longer looked at as a huge upgrade by many Blazer fans. That may not be fair. Marion is still more versatile than any of the Blazer 3s is individually. He is also a better defender. However, he is not so far advanced of what we already see our guys doing that there is still an outcry to get him.
It is amazing what a little patience will do and how it changes the outlook of fans. There are still a few voices trying to get rid of Blake at all costs under the mistaken assumption he is not a good enough point guard for this team when in truth he is a great fit. He doesn't need a lot of touches but he is effective when he gets them. He provides the steady veteran leadership that keeps the team from panicking. He strokes the three pretty well. Sure, his defense is shaky, but then again, name 5 teams that are perfectly set up to defend the Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Devin Harris type of point guard.
I saw one comparison of Blake and Laker guard Derek Fisher. They have similar games and often seem like statistical clones. Yet I don't hear a lot of Laker fans yelling for Fisher to be traded, any more than I heard Bulls fans wanting to unload Ron Harper. I would have to say that style of point, the one that doesn't need the ball in their hands but can score when called upon is pretty effective on teams with guys like Brandon Roy, Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. Properly built, that is a better choice than a ball-controlling point guard who has to have it in his hands.
So now that the season is starting to shake out, Blazer fans are starting to realize the move for Marion, while it may have been a good one, would ultimately have had too high a price. There is a reason this team is 9-6 and on its way up. That reason has a lot to do with the players Portland would have had to give up or not play if they acquired Marion.
This is certainly no slight on the Matrix. He is a very good player who helps any team he is on. Can you imagine him in Boston with their current crop? It would be a tough fit at first, but with hi versatility, they would be all but unstoppable. But as good as he is, looking back, the landscape has changed so much that at this point, Blazer fans should be ecstatic that trade was never a realistic possibility.
Sometimes the best moves you make are the ones you don't.
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