Jason Hortsch: Bowing out and looking ahead


Well, with grad school for data science ramping up, it is now time for me to write my final piece. Writing for Rip City Project these pat two years has been a great experience, and one that I will cherish for a long time. I think every die-hard sports fan has thoughts and observations they would love to share, and being given a platform on which to do so was quite an honor.

With the advent of social media and technology, I think sports media, and honestly the media as a whole, is in a state of upheaval. These are new, uncharted territories we are entering, and it will be interesting to see how the next 5-10 years pan out.

Consider that the first iPhone (what I would call the first real mass-market smartphone) was released in June 2007. That was only eight years ago, and look at how much smartphones have changed and shaped our world since then. Now, consider that in another 8 years, there will most likely be some new development or piece of technology that shifts our world just as much as smartphones have.

Even sports are evolving – look at the NFL and its massive rule adjustments, or how much the NBA itself is changing. The Golden State Warriors just won a title playing 6’7” Draymond Green heavy minutes at the center position. Such a tactic would have been unheard of not too long ago.

The new player tracking data that the NBA is gathering is a wealth of information just waiting to be tapped, and while teams have already started using this data, I have no doubt that there are still new, game-changing revelations to be made. Our world is changing, rapidly, and sports are no exception.

With my little philosophical ramble done, I would like to offer three predictions for the upcoming Portland Trail Blazers season.

  • I don’t think the Trail Blazers will be as bad as everyone thinks.

Yes, the Trail Blazers experienced an upheaval of their own, and yes, they did lose a lot of talent. It’s easy to see that they won’t be as good as last season, but I don’t think they are going to be true bottom-feeders by any stretch.

I say this because of Damian Lillard and Head Coach Terry Stotts. I think they are both too good at what they do to for the Trail Blazers to truly bottom out. Lillard had a good season overall last year, even with his 3-point shooting plunging. All he needs to do is get his shooting from deep back on track, and he will be a terror on the offensive end. He will also now be the team’s true number one option.

  • C.J. McCollum will show the world what he can do.

McCollum already started exploding during last season’s playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, and I think he can parlay some of that momentum toward success during the upcoming season. He has the talent, but he has experienced fairly serious injuries during each of his first two seasons.

If he can stay healthy, and build off the end of last season’s production, McCollum will really be able to surprise some people. We haven’t even seen a true, full season from him yet, so let us hope that he can shake the injury bug and show what he is capable of.

  • One of Meyers Leonard, Mason Plumlee, and Noah Vonleh will start to make a jump.

Ed Davis is the fourth young big man on the roster, but I don’t think he is quite at the level where he will be able to make any sort of big leap. The other three, though, all have potential to step up this next season. They each have their reasons why or why not such a jump might occur, but the Trail Blazers really have three shots at the chance for one of them to develop.

In a world of salary caps and tough roster management, it is crucial for teams to develop their young players. I love the fact that the Blazers have three opportunities for this to happen, and even one of them developing will be crucial to the team’s longer term success.

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