- NBA Rank: 9
Conference Rank: 7
- Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers lived up to their name last year: they were a blazing hot 3-point shooting team. They were everything Byron Scott hates, while achieving heights that Scott's Lakers are unlikely to sniff. The only rotation player that the Blazers lost is Mo Williams, but Steve Blake is a great replacement. It will be hard for the Blazers to reproduce the scorching hot shooting of last year, but expect them to be in the playoff hunt.
Twenty-one times in the history of the NBA, a player has shot 500 threes, and hit them at 39% or better. The Blazers had two of those player seasons. Now, let's be fair, so did the Warriors, and six player seasons on that list are from last year. And as the 3-pointer grows ever more important, that list is going to grow a lot faster over the next ten years than it did in the previous ten.
|Mo Williams ||1,834||31||0.033||1.3|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
Still, when you consider that in addition to Matthews and Lillard, the Blazers also had great long range shooting from Batum, McCullom, and Williams, the Blazers were a hell of a long range threat. They were above average at hitting threes, and shot a lot of threes, and it paid off in spades (only the Hawks and Rockets shot more threes, and neither hit them as well).
Stotts deserves a lot of credit for this. I still think Aldridge is crazily overrated and I am highly skeptical that all of his long two-pointers are what opens up room for their wings to bomb away. Rather, I think LMA's long twos are exactly the shot that defenses want this team to take. Still, Stotts generally put the ball in the hands of the right players to get the job done.
|Steve Blake ||1.0||1,258.3||35||0.105||2.8|
|Chris Kaman ||5.0||1,126.6||33||0.038||0.9|
|Diante Garrett ||1.5||595.5||26||-0.012||-0.1|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
I'm not as high on Lillard as most, and in particular I think his ceiling isn't much higher than where he is now. He's a great shooter, obviously, but has not done much of anything else in his career. This doesn't make him a bad player (great shooting can make up for lots of faults). I doubt he'll ever become a true all-star caliber player with his low rebounds and subpar assist to turnover ratio.
Steve Blake is a great addition to the squad. I expect him to do a lot of the things he did the last time he was a Blazer. He should hit lots of threes without turning the ball over too much. He'll fit perfectly into this offense. Of course, he is on the wrong side of thirty, and his impact may be limited.
I think Kaman is an awful pickup; he's old and hasn't produced well in ages. Worse, he'll take minutes from guys like Thomas Robinson that should be getting groomed for bigger roles. It is unclear to me why Kaman keeps getting more chances.
The same formula as last year (lots of threes, Robin Lopez cleaning up the boards) should have this team fighting for 50 wins again. Of course, the problem with this is familiar to Blazers' fans: the West is loaded. 50 wins might not get you in the playoffs, or it might only be a one-way ticket to a drubbing at the hands of the Spurs.
Of course, there's also the worry that the variance can kick the team in the proverbial nuts. Shooting efficiency, especially from long range, can have lots of swings. The Blazers rode hot streaks to an over-performance last year, and that could swing the other way this year.