Many analysts are picking the Blazers to finish as the sixth, seventh, or eighth seed in the playoffs this season. Some even think the Blazers won’t make the playoffs at all. I couldn’t disagree more. Let me say, first and foremost, that I am a huge Blazer homer. I watch almost every single game, believe they should win every one of them, and get upset when they don’t. With that in mind, here are some of my reasons why I think the Blazers will surprise everyone and end up as, at least, the 5th seed in the Western Conference:
With the addition of Robin Lopez, the Blazers have a true center and big body in the middle of the paint. The 7 footer will take up plenty of space in the middle and make guards and smaller forwards think twice before driving into the lane for an easier shot selection. Last season, the Blazers were absolutely eaten alive in the paint by just about every team because JJ Hickson was too small to play the 5-spot. Having Lopez in the middle will allow LaMarcus Aldridge to concentrate solely on the other teams power forward while Lopez roams the paint to block and alter shots. The Blazers allowed 47.4 points in the paint (dead last) and allowed their opponents to shoot 47 percent from the field (second to last). I don’t think that is happening this year with Sideshow Rob in the middle.
AN ACTUAL BENCH
The Blazers starters were highly effective last season, averaging the most minutes and total points per game. The problem was, their bench was absolutely horrendous. The bench averaged 18 points a game last season. A full 6 points behind the Indiana Pacers, who were second to last in the NBA in bench scoring. You simply cannot win in the NBA with your bench putting up those kind of scoring numbers. All that should change this year with the addition of Dorell Wright and Mo Williams, two proven scorers in the NBA, who will be coming off of the bench this year. Williams will also help other bench players find easy buckets with his ability to pass the ball, and Claver, Freeland, Barton, and Leonard have a year experience under their belts. Do not sleep on Thomas Robinson either, as he should be able to get a lot of put-back shots with his hustle and rebounding abilities. When CJ McCollum comes back from his injury, this could be one of the most potent benches in the NBA.
The reigning Rookie of the Year should only get better in his second season. His ability to score takes pressure off Aldridge and, in his second year, will have a stronger grasp on what it takes to be a successful NBA point guard. He should be a better distributor and has been working all summer on his defense, which has been showing in the last few exhibition games.
These are just a few reasons why I think the Blazers will exceed analysts expectations in the 2013-14 NBA season.