Written by Brendon Donohoe
Welcome to our NBA season preview. Leading up to the first game of the NBA season, we will be counting down every team in the NBA. Next up, the Portland Trail Blazers.
27) Portland Trail Blazers
2014-2015 Record: 51-31
|PG||Damian Lillard||Bench||C||Meyers Leonard|
|SG||Gerald Henderson||PF||Noah Vonleh|
|SF||Al-Farouq Aminu||SF||Maurice Harkless|
|PF||Ed Davis||PG||Tim Frazier|
|C||Chris Kaman||SG||C.J. McCollum|
- Key Offseason Additions: Gerald Henderson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee
- Key Offseason Losses: LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Arron Afflalo, Wes Matthews, Robin Lopez
The roster turnover this offseason can be summed up in one word; catastrophic. Franchise player LaMarcus Aldridge, and numerous other starters are gone from the team. Replacing these players are some good, but far less talented players. Though one bright spot remains, and that is Damian Lillard. With Aldridge gone, this is now Lillard’s team. But how will Lillard do with his own new team? I’ll go with more scoring, less passing, and little to no defense. On the offensive end, I expect Lillard to channel is inner Kobe. Lillard will take a lot more shots, and be a bit of a ball hog. As for defense, it’s no secret Lillard is one of the worst defensive players in the league. Being on a bad team won’t exactly encourage him to play better defense.
Outside of Lillard, the starting lineup is one of the weakest in the league. Outside of Al-Farouq Aminu, no one’s starting role is secure (and the only reason Aminu’s is safe is because of the lack of depth at small forward). Gerald Henderson and Chris Kaman are both below average starters, and would be much better suited going against second team units. Both starters face some serious competition from their younger counterparts on the bench. For Ed Davis, we will finally see what he’s got as a full time starter. I expect Davis to put up something like 12ppg and 10rpg. Not bad numbers at all. However, a former top 10 pick in Noah Vonleh is sitting on the bench and will scoop up Davis’ minutes if he can’t keep up as a starter.
As I mentioned before, the Trail Blazers bench has some potential, and could easily start taking minutes from the starters. Portland’s management is hoping Meyers Leonard will make the jump this year that they had hoped for when they drafted him in 2012. I’m not as optimistic, and don’t expect that jump this year, if ever, from Leonard. Noah Vonleh on the other hand, I am more optimistic about. Vonleh is still very raw, and will take time before he becomes a capable starter. However, a year or two down the road, look for Vonleh to be making an impact. The big man that should, and will make an impact this year is Mason Plumlee. Plumlee is good, and will take over for either Kaman or Davis at some point this season. The other bench player that is most likely to move into a starting role is C.J. McCollum. I believe him to already be better than Henderson, and the only reason he would not move into a starting role is because Head Coach Terry Stotts wants McCollum to be the main scoring threat off the bench. Behind McCollum is Pat Connaughton, the rookie out of Notre Dame. I like Pat, and expect him to be in the league for years to come, but this year he will most likely be spending a lot of time on the bench. Battling Connaughton for minutes at the two is Allen Crabbe. I believe Connaughton will be better, but Crabbe has some NBA experience, which will most likely land him more minutes. Maurice Harkless and Phil Pressey will land some minutes as reserves, while Luis Montero and Tim Frazier will be buried further down on the depth chart. Cliff Alexander is interesting case. Going into his freshman year at Kansas, Alexander seemed destined to be a star, but never came close to living up to the hype. After going undrafted, Alexander is now buried deep down on the Trail Blazer’s depth chart. More than likely, Alexander will be out of the league in a few years, but the small chance of the boom is worth the roster spot.
Question on Everyone’s Mind?
Is there a diamond in the rough on this team?
If by diamond you mean star, then no. Outside of Lillard, none of the players seem destined for stardom. Now, if you are asking if there is some average to above average starter potential here, then the answer is yes. Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee, C.J. McCollum, Pat Connaughton, and even Cliff Alexander have some solid potential. I’m not talking perennial all-star potential, but good starter level talent. I don’t expect Alexander and Leonard to reach that level, and odds are that Vonleh and/or Connaughton will not reach their level, but Plumlee and McCollum will. Plumlee has already shown he has what it takes, and McCollum has the skill set to put it together. McCollum is also working with the fact that there are not that many good shooting guards in the league. He is a rare commodity.
Again, don’t expect star power. Lower those expectations a bit and you may be pleasantly surprised.
This season is going to be a rough one for Trail Blazer fans. With so much of the last year’s playoff team gone, the Trail Blazers will be in full rebuilding mode by the end of the year. It will not be all bad though. Blazer fans will be able to see what some of these younger guys have, and hopefully these guys will have what it takes to be the building blocks of the future. I predict lots of rumors of Terry Stotts demise, but he will ultimately keep his job. I predict Damian Lillard will the enter the Kobe-zone, Mason Plumlee will make Chris Kaman expendable, Chris Kaman will then be traded to a playoff contender, and C.J. McCollum will be in contention for sixth man of the year.
Las Vegas Over/Under – 26.5
Prediction – Under with 25, finishing 14th in the West
Check out the other installments of our NBA season preview.