The Portland Trail Blazers made the playoffs last year for the first time since they were nicknamed "Jail-Blazers", and have become one of the teams-to-watch in the Western Conference. Brandon Roy has become a household name, being a leader on one of the youngest teams in the NBA. LaMarcus Aldridge, a budding frontcourt superstar, and Rudy Fernandez, the Spanish sensation who followed up his incredible performance in the Olympics with a very solid rookie year are also developing into solid players.
There is still growing to do - most notably former #1 pick Greg Oden, who has had a well-documented struggle with adapting to the professional level. He played most of last year, and there were flashes of excellence, but he mostly fouled out and had a really hard time learning to play offense. There's also Jerryd Bayless, a very highly-regarded point guard from the University of Arizona. He didn't get too many minutes last year, but he blew away everyone in last year's Vegas Summer League and earned MVP honors for the week.
Today they added a piece to this puzzle that may help the others fit together better. Andre Miller has been a successful point guard in Denver and Philadelphia, and excels when he is surrounded by talent. In Portland, Miller replaces their starter last year, Steve Blake, who might just be a better fit coming off the bench. Blake was a reliable player, but he doesn't bring the type of effectiveness that Andre Miller does. Miller not only is a pass-first point guard, he's a baller who can take the ball to the rack when his team needs a lift. Better yet, he's played in 530 straight games. He's been an important cog in the Sixers recent resurgence, as they've made their way back into playoff contention.
The Blazers have talent, no doubt about it, and Miller's experience is an extra plus. For all of you NBA lovers, think of mix between Kevin Johnson and Mark Jackson. Production without glamour, the ultimate teammates to superstars. Portland has a core, they have great coaching, and depth that compares to only a few teams in the league. If you saw them in the playoffs last year, you saw the upside. Other than Brandon Roy, however, no other player took the reins as the leader. What they have now is a leader, a winner, and a team player. Another smart move for Portland - it will only make them better.