The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off two lackluster seasons in which they did not make the NBA Playoffs. Last year the Trail Blazers went 33-49 and finished 4th in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference. This is now two consecutive seasons the Trail Blazers have a winning percentage that is below .430. If the Trail Blazers hope to get back to the NBA Playoffs this season they are going to have to rely on some young players and the development of head coach Terry Stotts. Fortunately, Stotts will be coaching the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard. If everything falls into place this should be a very fun team to watch.
Damian Lillard in 2013-14
In his first season in the NBA Damian Lillard averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists. Time and again we have seen that a point guard can completely change a franchise. When Chris Paul went to the Los Angeles Clippers they immediately became a contender in the Western Conference. If the Portland Trail Blazers can build around Lillard the future will be bright. That said, there needs to be some scoring production out of LaMarcus Aldridge and the front line. If the Trail Blazers get a little more balanced with their scoring there is a strong possibility they can make the NBA Playoffs next year.
Even though Lillard averaged 6.5 assists per game it was quite obvious that many teams only had to focus on one player. This year, coach Terry Stotts will need to find some other scorers. The two highest paid players on the team this year are LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. These two players need to step up big to take some of the load off Lillard. It is important to note that most of the players on the Portland Trail Blazers are young as there is only one player over the age of 30. This should help them tremendously as they progress through the 82 game season. If they can avoid injuries those back to back games will not be as difficult as they would be on older teams like the Los Angeles Lakers.
Getting Into the Playoffs
If the Portland Trail Blazers want to make the playoffs in 2014 they will need to improve by about 10 games. Although most teams do not want to just barely get in the playoffs with the eighth seed this might be a step in the right direction for Portland. They finished last season at 33-49. If they can win 10 more games that would put them at 43 wins with just 39 losses. Over the last few years, an above .500 record has gotten teams into the playoffs. Although this may not seem like a huge difference, it really is. To win 10 more games in an NBA season can be quite difficult for a team with so many young players. Psychology will play a huge role in this season as the team needs to get off to a good start. Most young teams feed off winning or losing streaks. If the Trail Blazers come out and lose their first few games it might cause problems in the locker room.
Locker room issues often do not come up for older teams. The oldest player on the Portland Trail Blazers is 30 years old. The captains are both in their early to mid 20s. If there are a few off the court issues it may spill over to on the court issues. This is something that coach Terry Stotts is going to have to address as quickly as possible. There are some coaches that thrive off the adversity. There are others that completely fail. It looks as if coach Terry Stotts has this season to prove himself or he will be out the door. The Trail Blazers are not going to take another 50 loss season even though they are a young team. This is a team that was one of the most enjoyable teams to watch just a few year ago when they were running up and down the court scoring well over 100 points a game.
Being in the Western Conference often meant that a team had to go up and down the court at breakneck speeds to have any chance to win a game. That is no longer the case as the Western Conference is getting older and even a little slower. Teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers are not running nearly as fast as they used to. There are still teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder that get up and down the court but not every team is running this style of offense heading into the 2013-14 season. This might give the Portland Trail Blazers a little bit of an advantage as we head into the All Star break. It is well known that older teams struggle after the All Star break as their legs get tired and injuries start to mount. If Portland can use their youth to get up and down the court there is a good chance they could improve immensely this season.
When making a prediction on the season it is hard to come up with an exact number on the wins. If the Trail Blazers can finish the season at .500 they will be doing well. I would imagine the Trail Blazers will finish the season better than they start. As with most young teams, it takes a few weeks to understand how to win games. If the Trail Blazers can stay above .500 prior to the All Star break I would think they will make the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed. If the Trail Blazers are several games above .500 going into the All Star break they may end up getting a 4th or 5th seed just because they will have fresh legs later in the season. It will be fun to see how this one plays out. I will continue to come back to this article as we get deeper into the season.
Trail Blazers 2013-14 Season Updates
With the Portland Trail Blazers being one of the more interesting stories heading into this NBA season I am going to try to do a weekly column discussing some of the goings on in Portland. I will definitely do an article once every two weeks explaining what I see with the Portland Trail Blazers. Very rarely do we see a team this young in the NBA. If the coaching is above average it will be fun to watch this young team develop. I do feel as if they need one more scorer to really make a strong playoff push this year. They have a center and a point guard so now they need a shooting guard or a forward that can score. If they can get a 20 point scorer through a trade this will be a team that has a great shot at being outstanding this year.
If the front office is not willing to trade for a scorer it could be a challenging year. Last year we saw that Damian Lillard was a stud but he cannot do it all by himself. I would like to see him score about 22 points a game and two others average in the high teens. If this is possible it will be one of the best teams to watch on the West coast. Portland fans deserve a good team to watch as they have not had the best product on the court in the 2000s. The Trail Blazers have only made the playoffs three times since 2003 and there have been some horrible teams in the mid 2000s. Some fans may be fed up with it but if the young team starts to produce the attendance numbers will increase. If the city can get behind this team would could see a consistent contender in the very near future.
To stay up to date on the Portland Trail Blazers make sure to access the Barry’s Tickets blog. There will be some great articles available during the NBA season. If there is a particular team analysis you would like to see please feel free to comment below and we will address that concern. It will be a fun year for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers will likely struggle this year because they continue to get older. We can only wonder how many games Kobe has left. Even though Kobe Bryant is one of the best players in NBA history he is getting down to the final few years of his career. If the Lakers continue to milk Kobe for all he is worth it may be the case that the Lakers are not a great team when he does decide to retire. We will have to see what happens this year.