After trading away a future Hall of Famer, retooling a large chunk of their roster and cutting the young guys loose, the Portland Trail Blazers were expecting a challenging season. Their record wouldn't be great, and some nights things would look exceptionally ugly.
All those predictions have come true through the season's first seven weeks - but not everything has been doom and gloom.
Even as an injury plague has swept through the Portland locker room, some young players have looked like future NBA stars. Others have gone from afterthoughts to legitimate rotation players. Veterans who seemingly had no place on a young roster have proven they not only belong but have shined in more significant roles.
Two Blazers in particular - one young, one "old" by Portland standards - have played well enough individually and absolutely merit all-star consideration.
1. Jerami Grant
Despite just returning (and scoring 27 points) after spending four games in the concussion protocol, Jerami Grant has done enough to be on the ballot with a chance to earn his first NBA all-star berth.
The 29-year-old has been a top-30 scorer for most of the season. He's averaging 22.4 points and shooting 40.7 percent from three on 6.2 attempts a game. If those numbers hold up, this will be the best offensive season of his career.
Before he received a blow to the face from Utah's Omer Yurtseven, Grant was the Blazers' best offensive option. Anfernee Simons has filled that role since he returned from injury, and Shaedon Sharpe is only now cooling off after scoring 20-plus points in five straight games.
Grant and Simons carried the scoring load in his first game back, a loss to the Dallas Mavericks. His numbers may drop now that the Blazers have their entire rotation back, but he should become more efficient as a scorer and add length and athleticism to a team that's been one of the best in the NBA at forcing turnovers and deflections.
The nine-year pro may not make his first all-star team, but he's deserving of a spot on the ballot.