Portland Trail Blazers 2013-14 Preview

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LaMarcus Aldridge

February 10, 2013; Orlando FL, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) smiles after he made a basket against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 110-104. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers won a meager 33 games last season. Things could be looking up, though. The team has one of the best big men in the West in LaMarcus Aldridge and the reigning Rookie of the Year in Damian Lillard. With Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews playing supporting roles, Portland will have a solid chance to take a step forward in 2013-14.

2012-13 Ranks:
Wins: 33
Points Per Game: 15th
FG%: 16th
Points Allowed Per Game: 29th
Rebounds Per Game: 24th

Notable Additions: Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Mo Williams, CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Earl Watson
Notable Losses: J.J. Hickson, Sasha Pavlovic, Luke Babbitt, Ronnie Price, Eric Maynor, Jared Jeffries

Point Guards: Damian Lillard, Earl Watson, Mo Williams – Grade: B+
The group is led by the somewhat unheralded Damian Lillard. Out on the west coast, Lillard didn’t get quite the recognition he probably deserved after his Rookie of the Year campaign. Averaging 19 points and 6.5 assists per game, though, he definitely had a year to remember and is one of the league’s best young point guards. The Trail Blazers lost Eric Maynor, but also upgraded their bench options behind him as Mo Williams and Earl Watson are an improvement over little-used Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price. Their veteran presence should only be a benefit to Portland.

Shooting Guards: Wesley Matthews, Allen Crabbe, Will Barton – Grade: C+
Matthews will get the start here and while he’s solid, there’s not much else behind him. Crabbe was a second-round selection in this year’s NBA Draft and Will Barton didn’t impress much in his rookie year last season (4.0 points per game shooting only 38 percent from the field). The Trail Blazers need a big year out of Matthews here, but he’s not off to a good start. He had a subpar preseason and was recently cleared after having an irregular heartbeat.

Small Forwards: Nicolas Batum, Dorell Wright, Victor Claver – Grade: C+
Batum is starting to coming into his own and will start here for the Trail Blazers. He had a big year last season, averaging career-highs in points (14.3), rebounds (5.6), and assists (4.9) per game. He had some shooting woes, connecting on only 42 percent of his attempts, but overall had a nice year. Former first-round pick Dorell Wright will get the bulk of the backup minutes here.

Power Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Thomas Robinson, Joel Freeland – Grade: A
LaMarcus Aldridge anchors Portland’s frontcourt and is one of the top big men in the Western Conference. Averaging 21 points and nine rebounds last season, he is a stat monster and will be needed if the Trail Blazers plan on making any kind of playoff run this year. He’ll be backed up by No. 5 overall pick in last year’s draft, Thomas Robinson. Robinson had a subpar rookie year but is in a pretty good place in Portland where he won’t be needed to do a whole lot.

Centers: Robin Lopez, Meyers Leonard – Grade: C-
With Robin Lopez taking over at center, this is arguably Portland’s weakest unit. Lopez is a serviceable center, but not a star by any means. His career highs of 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in his first full season as a starter were still relatively modest for a center. Backing him up is the promising second-year player Meyers Leonard, but there will still be a lot of pressure on Aldridge and Batum to carry the frontcourt.

Coach: Terry Stotts – Grade: D
Whether or not Terry Stotts can turn things around in Portland remains to be seen. He’ll get his chance in 2013-14, though, with a solid nucleus of Aldridge, Lillard, Matthews, and Batum. If Portland gets into the playoffs, he’ll have done his job since this team still needs several more pieces to contend for a championship. In five seasons as a head coach, though, Stotts has never had a team reach .500.

Team Grade: C+

Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events.
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