It's time to Jam. We've got Mar-V-P's biggest fan Peter back, along with Clark, Shums, and Yucca! Let's do this!
#1: How do you think the Portland Trail Blazers rebuilt so quickly after having injury related draft 'busts' from Brandon Roy and Greg Oden during the last few seasons?
Peter J Novak: Other than the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz, no other team consistently put itself in the playoffs as much as the Portland Trailblazers over the past 30 years. While Portland has not had the same organizational stability, and they did have the ill conceived JailBlazers era, they do have an owner in Paul Allen, who's checkbook has taken the team far. The triumvirate of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard have grown into 3 solid complementary pieces and were all steals at the positions they were drafted. Add the moves this past off-season to surround themselves with solid role players and it should not be a surprise on how they have improved.
Clark: With some shrewd moves to put it simply. They've drafted pretty well, been aggressive but calculating in free agency ( the Wes Matthews and Millsap offers were devious but well planned) and they drafted Damian Lillard after getting that pick in the biggest heist in the last decade. Thanks Brooklyn.
Shums: I'd only call Oden a bust, and even his bustiness -- wait, that came out wrong -- was due to injury. Roy, too. The Blazers as an org are actually pretty shrewd judges of talent. Which is why they stole Wesley Matthews and tried to take Paul Millsap. They're smart about how they spend their money, too. Of course, it helps to have Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge (who, remember, was obtained in a draft-day deal with Chicago).
Yucca: They systematically re-built the team, one step at a time. They already had Aldridge and Batum. Then they added Wesley Matthews. Then Lillard. Then Robin Lopez and a bench. They made smart moves, built a game plan around their players' skills, and helped their players progress.
#2: Is Gordon Hayward better than Nicolas Batum? Have you looked at their numbers? Batum is at 13 / 7 / 5 / 1 /1 and his making his threes this season.
Peter J Novak: Yes. Though it helps that Batum is 3rd/4th banana and not 1st banana.
Clark: I think Hayward and Batum are about as close as you can get to player comps in this league. I also think Hayward will end up signing a deal very similar to Batums this offseason.
Shums: They're comparable, but Batum benefits from not having to be the focal point of the offense, which helps him get more open shots off the ball. Hayward shot at a higher percentage (though his usage was lower) when he had Millsap and Al Jefferson around.
Yucca: Hmm ... this is tough. I think Hayward may be better, but right now Batum is definitely more productive and efficient ... if that makes sense. Hopefully as we revisit this question over the next couple years it starts to swing definitively in Hayward's direction.
#3: LaMarcus Aldridge is a three time All-Star in the Western Conference. He has scored 20 or more points per game over the last four seasons, but this season he finally averaged a double double. Is he legit?
Peter J Novak: Aldridge is a legit 2nd tier star. I'm not convinced a team with him as the best offensive option can travel deep into the playoffs.
Clark: I've always thought he was a nice player but as continues to be shown in more and more data, you are limited in the impact you can make when you're a near average efficiency offensive player who isn't great defensively. He's a good player (think Al Jefferson) who had a monster start to this season.
Shums: That sounds pretty legit to me. People always ask the question, "Can you win a title if he's the best player on your team?" But if you have enough great players, it doesn't matter who the "best" one is. I think that's where Portland is headed.
Yucca: I'm skeptical of LMA. I don't think teams can be elite when their top scorer is average or worse in efficiency ... unless that team is simply blowing teams out via defense. LMA's TS% is pretty meh. He's a good player, but I don't think he's top scorer quality.
#4: "What if" things went differently two drafts ago, and the Jazz got the Golden State Warriors pick, and then moved up to draft Damian Lillard. What would be different today?
Peter J Novak: Well if Lillard played as well as a rookie for Utah as he did with Portland, then there is a good chance that last years team would have made the playoffs and the decisions to let both Al and Paul go would probably not have been made. Additionally, we wouldn't have had the ammo left to deal up for Trey. So I'd speculate we would have a roster that looks something like Lillard/Foye/Hayward/Millsap/Favors with Burks/DMC/Kanter/Olynyk off the bench.
Clark: It's hard to speculate because who knows what we would have had to give up to move up for him. But we would probably be competing for the playoffs now with a roster of young guys and vets. I don't know that it would ultimately have impacted the chances of contending for a title in the long run.
Shums: No Trey Burke, for one. Probably no asset-dump with Golden State, either, since Lillard would have made the team more competitive. The Jazz probably would have re-signed Millsap, kept their original 2013 draft slots, and made the 2014 playoffs. And maybe tried to make some other deals to build around a core of Favors, Hayward, Millsap and Lillard. (Dammit, that sounds amazing now. Why couldn't this have happened?!)
Yucca: Lillard would have driven fans nuts by being Mo's backup all year.
#5: Mo Williams, Earl Watson, and Wesley Matthews . . . which of the three would you want back, and why?
Peter J Novak: Wes. He shoots. He sometimes defends. He still has many years left in his NBA career.
Clark: I love Earl Watson, but I'd only love to have him back on the bench coaching in some fashion. I've moved on from Mo Wiliams and I hope the Jazz have too. I would take Wes Matthews back. I liked him and wish we had kept him and Korver back in the day. But we didn't so it is what it is. We've just got to try and get better.
Shums: Matthews. I have no desire to go back to MOLO-ball, and while I love Earl Watson as a person and a basketball mind, his on-court usefulness just isn't there.
Yucca: OMSW!!!!!!!!!!!! Is this even a serious question?
Thanks again gang, and please be sure to give your answers in the comments section as well! Woo! Participation!