NBA Picks: Portland Trail Blazers Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 9/11/2013
The Portland Trail Blazers franchise has had a great deal of success over the years. Last year’s 33-49 record wasn’t acceptable to anyone involved with this franchise. How bad was the finish last year? Portland lost their final 13 games of the year, which led many to wonder if the team was tanking at the end of the season. During their 13-game losing streak, the Blazers lost by an average of 14.2 points per game. Basically, Portland was annihilated on a nightly basis to finish out the 2012-13 season.
It isn’t that Portland doesn’t have anything positive going on; it’s just that they had far too many glaring weaknesses as a team. To say that the Blazers had some bench problems is a major understatement. The defense left a lot to be desired as well. Neil Olshey set out to correct as many of the Blazers problems as possible during the 2013 offseason. Let’s take a look at how he did and what we can expect from the Blazers in the year ahead.
First Things First- The Bench
How awful was the Portland Blazers bench last year? Portland’s bench scored the fewest points per minute of any bench in the league, and they were also used less than any other bench in the NBA. Terry Stotts was essentially forced to play his starters big minutes. Still, all executives know that wearing down the star players isn’t a long-term formula for success. There’s no question that the first thing that had to be addressed was the Blazers horrible bench. Olshey and the rest of the front office knew this, and they definitely made some big moves to make this bench better.
Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez came over in trades that didn’t cost the Blazers very much at all. Robinson was drafted fifth in the 2012 NBA Draft, but he has already been dumped off by two teams. Taking a chance on a guy with as much potential as Robinson seems like a no-brainer to me. Dorrell Wright and Mo Williams were signed in the offseason to help bring some veteran shooters to this team. Portland finished dead last in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage last year.
The Portland Blazers ended up getting two first-round draft picks this year. With the 10th overall pick in the draft, the Blazers selected C.J. McCollum from Lehigh. Everyone remembers McCollum for leading Lehigh to the massive upset over Duke in the NCAA Tournament. McCollum was injured almost the entire season last year, which certainly hurt his draft stock, but don’t be surprised if he turns into a game-changer for the Blazers in the next few years. The Blazers also picked up Allen Crabbe from Cal. Cleveland initially drafted him, but the Blazers traded for him by getting rid of a couple future second-round draft picks. Crabbe has a versatile game on offense, and his length gives him the potential to be a very good defender in the NBA.
Solid Core to the Team
Though the Blazers did have some real problems last year, it is important to remember that this team has plenty of major positives. The core of this team is very good. Damian Lillard was named the Rookie of the Year in the NBA after an amazing first season in Portland. Lillard was the Blazers best player last season. And any time he came out of the game, the team suffered in a big way. He is only 23 years old, and you have to assume he’ll continue to get better.
LaMarcus Aldridge has established himself as an elite power forward in the league. Aldridge was unhappy with the direction of this team and was rumored to be asking out of Portland for a while, but recently the word is he has settled in and is ready to push forward as a Blazer. Aldridge averaged 21.1 points per game last year, and his ability to step out and knock down the mid-range jumper has made him a really tough guy to defend.
Nicolas Batum may be underrated by some experts, but the coaching staff and players in Portland know how important he is to this team. Batum is the team’s most consistent outside shooter, and he plays solid defense. Don’t forget that Batum is only 24 years old, so he has a lot of time to keep getting better.
NBA Picks: Portland Trail Blazers Futures Odds
Bovada lists the Portland Blazers as a 100/1 long shot to win the 2014 NBA Championship. BetOnline lists the Blazers at +10,000 to win the loaded Western Conference in 2014. Clearly, the Blazers have plenty of improving to do before they fight with the best in the league.
The front office deserves credit for making this bench light years better than it was last year. Stotts should be able to rest his regulars much more this season. Will the Blazers be able to play better defense than last season? That is the largest hurdle in this team being a real competitor for the seventh or eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Portland is assembling a nice mixture of young talent all over its roster. The Blazers will be better in the 2013-14 season, and they should be a team to be reckoned with in a couple of years.
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