dropped his two cents on the high expectations for this year�..."/> dropped his two cents on the high expectations for this year�..."/> dropped his two cents on the high expectations for this year�..."/>

Realistic Expectations, part 2.

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John Schuhmann of the Court Reporters over on NBA.com dropped his two cents on the high expectations for this year’s Blazer squad.

Not much to disagree with to be honest with you besides him saying Rudy is ‘more of a slasher than a shooter’. I’d easily say he can both. He picked the Blazers finishing 7th in the Western Conference which is about as high as I can go with them right now. He correctly pointed out that the top 5 in the West aren’t moving, and I myself would still put the Suns over the Blazers today (ask me in a month).

But he did bring up something very intriguing that the Blazer faithful should start taking a harder look at.

Perimeter shooting.

Yes, perimeter shooting. Schuhmann dropped the James Jones stat which got me to thinking. You know the stat…8-16 without him in the lineup, 33-25 with him (FYI, I used to throw that stat around left and right last year. And yes I just patted myself on the back). Jones was an essential part of the Blazer squad last year but as we all know he just was not a part of the future. Rudy’s mere presence meant Joness was as good as gone. But his contributon to last year’s success cannot be forgotten. I’d even argue he was one of the top-3 most important guys on the team last year.

But that was last year. I’m sure when James packed up his creepy laugh and headed to South Beach a lot of Blazer fans said ‘Rudy’ over and over until it made them feel better. And then they got validated watching the Olympics to the point I’m sure the majority forgot James Jones even existed. But allow me to be realistic (or a Debbie Downer, you choose) and say that it may take a second for Rudy to replace James Jones shooting. We’ve heard Rudy can stroke it…we’ve seen Rudy stroke it…I just need to see him do it behind the NBA line. It’s not that I don’t think he can, I just need to see it first. After the Olympics I’ve already taken away any thought of him being the next Belinelli because giving Tayshaun and Kobe fits earns your stripes over D-Leaguers and Never Will Be’s. He’s still going to have an adjustment period before he can stick those three’s. The good thing about it is with the offensive talent surrounding him (Roy, Oden, LMA, Outlaw, etc.) the floor will be spread and he’ll more than likely get great looks at the basket. So that’s a positive…we aren’t exactly asking him to take fadeaway three’s yet.

(Although I guarantee he’s going to take at least 2 or 3 that will draw and awkward silence in the Rose Garden and an even more awkward silence from Barrett and Rice who will want to say something bad but remember that they’re homers and ignore it.)

But once you get past Rudy….who else on this team can shoot the three? Steve Blake has proven that at least in a Blazer uniform he’s deadly (41% in 05-06 and 40% last year). Bayless? With that stroke he should be able too but I’m still waiting to see it with my own eyes. And that leads us to one man and one man only.

Mr. Martell Webster.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never fully been convinced about the guy. The good news? His numbers have improved every year from deep. The bad news? He’s still as inconsistent as ever. This is the guy who is going to have to step it up shooting wise. He can’t let confidence or inconsistency interfere. He’s got to keep working on his shot selection. If Martell Webster can finally make that leap and consistently make three’s, that’s when the Blazers take a step towards the next level. That’s when they can legit be talked about in that top 5. The main reason that Martell is penciled in to (and will more than likely) start is because of that potential to shoot the ball. Blazer fans know that when Martell Webster gets hot…watch the bleep out. You remember the 24-point quarter. A lineup with Blake and Martell, Roy, LMA and Oden should be extremely tough to guard. When Martell’s right…who do you help off of? Exactly.

Can this season start already?