Hollinger: Blazers will win Northwest Division, finish second in west

As training camp gets underway around the league, ESPN.com’s John Hollinger is forecasting the 2010-11 season for all 30 teams. His outlook on the Trail Blazers’ prospects for the upcoming season is overwhelmingly positive, as he predicts they will go 55-27, win the Northwest Division, and finish second in the Western conference. The article is available only to ESPN Insider subscribers, but here are some key points.

On the Wesley Matthews signing:

No, the Blazers don’t do this every year just to mess with Utah. Matthews fits an essential need as a wing defender who can space the floor with his 3-point shooting, something the Blazers need if their defensive skill can catch up to their offense. It’s a bit rich for a role player, but given the need this move filled and Matthews’ youth, it’s tough to criticize too harshly.

On the team’s biggest strength, size:

There’s a good reason for the Blazers to play as slowly as they do — they’re huge. I don’t just mean tall, either; Portland brings the beef. The Blazers have quietly become one of the biggest teams in basketball, and while a likely trade or two may diminish their size a bit during the season, they still can match up sizewise with anybody.

On the team’s biggest weakness, floor spacing:

The Blazers nearly always play with two guys who can’tshoot, and that crowds the floor for everybody else. … The starting lineup will feature Oden and Miller, neither of whom can shoot. When they check out, we’ll have Przybilla or Camby up front … or possibly Oden and Camby together. That’s two nonshooters in the frontcourt. And when Miller checks out, another iffy shooter, Jerryd Bayless, checks in.

On the Blazers’ prospects for this season:

Even if Oden can’t finish the season, Portland has three rising stars in Roy, Aldridge and the rapidly improving Batum. Plus, as last season proved, the Blazers’ depth allows them to survive virtually anything the regular season throws at them. This time I suspect they’ll be thrown a few more hanging sliders, and finally win a playoff series or two.

The entire article is worth reading for Insider subscribers, so check it out. Personally, I find it a little bit refreshing that somebody as mainstream as Hollinger is reminding everybody that Portland won the same amount of games last year as Oklahoma City, the unquestioned media darlings leading into the 2010-11 season, despite having everybody and the coach miss significant time with injuries.

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