Sometimes in the NBA, deciding who’s going to start and who’s not is already predetermined. We all know who’s starting at the two-guard position for the Lakers and we know who’s the starting point guard down in New Orleans. But for the Portland Trailblazers’ point guard slot, it’s not that cut and dry. Last season, Steve Blake did a legit job at the point but now management upgraded the position this offseason by signing Andre Miller to a three-year, $21 million deal.
The obvious choice to start would be Miller. The 12-year vet has career averages of 14.6 ppg and 7.4 apg. Only two seasons ago, Miller had all-star considerations and helped lead the Sixers to the second round. He is one of those old school, pass-first type of guards that you rarely see in the game anymore. Miller’s going to compete and he’s going to get guys like Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge easy buckets.
But Blake has done a great job running the Blazers’ offense for the past two seasons. Though his numbers (11 ppg, 5 apg in ’08-09) aren’t as impressive as Miller’s, his 42.7 percent three-point percentage and 3.18:1 assist to turnover ratio makes him very efficient. Plus, he has the ear of the team and more importantly, the confidence of coach Nate McMillan. The coach even said Blake is the starter coming into training camp.
Whether that was a motivational tactic or not, it’s inspired Miller to chase a starting spot for the first time in his professional career. He was quoted in the Columbian as saying: “I’m going in there as the starting point guard — there’s nothing else to it,” Miller said. “I look at it as a challenge. Nothing is handed to you. So I have to go in there with the right attitude, knowing that, this is a point guard spot that is going to have to be battled for.”
I love it they are going into camp fighting for a spot the old fashioned way. But they got to be careful this competition does not disrupt the team chemistry if practices get too heated or if one of them is not happy about minutes during the year. As long as they keep the common goal in mind and accept whatever role McMillan assigns each of them this will be a better team than last year. Behind the Lakers and Spurs, the third seed is up for grabs and with a healthy and more productive Greg Oden and this upgrade at point guard, the Blazers are more than in the mix for that spot.
I envision Miller eventually starting and probably finishing games, but I see Blake maintaining an important role. I can see them splitting time at the position kind of like how Greg Anthony and Damon Stoudamire did in for the Blazers a decade ago. Blake will probably get 25 minutes total a night and play some two-guard as well.
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