Watchability Rankings: Trail Blazers
by Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports’ Adi Joseph and Sean Highkin will be counting down NBA teams based on watchability for the upcoming 2013-14 seasons. We’ll go one team a day, from least-watchable to most, giving you an idea of what to keep an eye out for this season. Today, we continue with the No. 14 Portland Trail Blazers:
2012-13 record: 33-49, missed playoffs
Adi Joseph’s 2013-14 record projection: 41-41, eighth in Western Conference
Two best players: PF LaMarcus Aldridge (21.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks a game), PG Damian Lillard (19.0 rebounds, 3.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists a game)
Overview: Despite featuring one of the worst benches in recent memory, the Trail Blazers surpassed a lot of expectations last season, winning 33 games. Lillard won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award unanimously, Aldridge had a second consecutive All-Star season and coach Terry Stotts introduced a new offense that greatly benefitted wings Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. This time around, they have an NBA-caliber bench to go with that core, which should put them in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
WHY YOU CAN’T MISS THEM
The ROY gets better: Lillard was spectacular his rookie season, but he also led the NBA in minutes played. With a reduced workload as well as some time this summer working on defense with newly-minted Hall of Famer Gary Payton, expect him to further establish himself as one of the game’s elite young point guards.
A reloaded roster: Last season, the Blazers’ bench consisted of the likes of Jared Jeffries, Ronnie Price, Sasha Pavlovic, Nolan Smith and Victor Claver. This year, Neil Olshey has added promising rookie guard C.J. McCollum, sharpshooter Dorell Wright, veteran point guard Mo Williams and intriguing second-year power forward Thomas Robinson. These additions, as well as that of starting center Robin Lopez, who should be an upgrade on undersized J.J. Hickson, make Portland’s roster much more formidable outside of the names you know.
A tight race: The race for the final two spots in the Western Conference playoff bracket will be a close one, with the Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Denver Nuggets and Dallas … [For more on NBA Watchability Rankings: No. 14 Portland Trail Blazers, click here.]