PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS 2013-14 PREVIEW
Once again, the Blazers will feature one of the strongest starting fives in the NBA. They’ll be able to hold their own until the substitutions start happening. And with the sound offseason acquisitions, Portland has a legitimate bench this year as well. On paper. I expect all of the starting five to improve production from last year. On paper, this is a 7 or 8 seed that can push for 6th best in the West with some mojo and a few breaks.
There is not much more we can ask of LMA. He’s proven himself one of the game’s top big men. I would only ask for his fire and commitment to this team. He will get his numbers for his personal glory, but I wish he would emerge as a locker room leader for this developing club. No more trade rumors please!
I expect D-LIL to follow up his spectacular Rookie of the Year campaign with a spectacular second season. He was already damn good, and now he has the benefit of having seen all the defenses and schemes built to slow him down. He’s a quick learner, so knowing he’s a marked man, he will find a way to get great results. Also I expect his minutes to go down now that he has two veteran point guard backups to relieve him in Mo Williams and Earl Watson.
Robin Lopez gives the Blazers a much needed legitimate starting center. With Aldridge scoring big up front, Lopez can be more defensive and rebound minded. Any points he scores will take the pressure off of LMA. He really should be grabbing near double digit rebounds and especially be pounding the hell out of the offensive glass.
Batum is already the Blazers best all-around player. This season he needs to make the leap to all-star level wingman. He can do this by upping his aggressiveness on the offensive end and not disappearing for quarters and halves at a time. He should be in the 18-19 ppg range with his athleticism, shooting and talent.
Matthews can score more, but with all the firepower in the starting 5, he doesn’t need to. He can take over in spurts with his shooting. I expect his output to be virtually the same as last season.
Finally, legitimate scoring and rebounding off the bench. How well Wright performs as a key reserve early on, will predict how well the Blazers can do. We need Dorrell to offer instant energy, tenacious defense and solid rebounding. If he does, he can ensure we won’t drop off when the subs start rolling in.
Mo Williams provides much needed veteran leadership and even more needed back-up for Damian Lillard. How well he gels and can get contributions from the other reserves will be worth its weight in gold. He is the leader of Portland’s bench. Something I am hoping he owns and creates an identity for.
Watson will provide more experienced back court options. He is another capable ball-handler who can let D-LIL play shooting guard. A configuration we might see more and more since Lillard loves and thrives in the off the ball role. Solid pickup that supports Lillard’s stake as a franchise player the front office is committed to building around.
I see Robinson as our effort guy. He’s the closest thing this incarnation has to a Brian Grant level force of nature. I think he can dominate the second unit. He can score the ugly buckets and put-backs. He will put pressure on the other team’s bench and outplay them. He will push and earn more minutes as the campaign goes on.
Leonard needs to learn all he can from Robin Lopez about being an effective big man in the NBA. I hope they go hard at each other every day in practice. We’ll need solid back-up minutes from him. Around 9-10 minutes per game. He has the longest ways to go, but appears to be putting in the work. Could surprise some folks.