Pre Season in the books
The Portland Trail Blazers concluded their 2012 preseason schedule with a 97-91 loss to the Utah Jazz, and for fans in the Pacific Northwest, Halloween night can’t get here any sooner.
A 3-4 preseason record is about as underwhelming as it comes, but the lessons learned along the way give us a decent picture as to what lies ahead for Rip City this season.
Damian Lillard is Very Good
We may not know what Damian Lillard’s ceiling is at the NBA level, and we may not even know how he’s going to hold up at the end of a long season, but what we do know is that he is a very good player with loads of potential.
Damian Lillard’s skill set is about as versatile as it comes. He can run the fast break, he can isolate in the half-court and when his extreme athleticism isn’t on display, he has one of the deadliest shots of today’s NBA point guards.
Like everybody else on this roster, the young prospect will go through difficult stretches—especially on defense—but with a motor unlike most his age, his bad games shouldn’t be too discouraging for a fanbase hoping for the best.
The touted Point Guard of the Future is ready to play, and if all things go according to plan, the future will be here sooner than some expect.
Depth is Still a Problem
The Blazers played a ton of players throughout the 2012 preseason, but that by no means that the team has a deep rotation.
Depth comes from more than just having bodies; it requires production. The players on this team who will likely get minutes have little-to-no experience in the NBA, and the only veterans off the bench have proven themselves to be unworthy of valuable minutes.
If the Blazers are dealt the injury card in 2013—especially in the front court—the team is toast when it comes to competing out West.
Still no Second Option
The Trail Blazers proved in 2012 that they can’t get it done with LaMarcus Aldridge as the only option on offense. He is a top-tier player in the NBA, but once the stars were gone and the rookies were in last year, the once-anticipated playoff race became a question of whether or not to tank the dreadfully boring final stretch of the season.
This year’s roster has a number of candidates who could step up behind LaMarcus Aldridge. Players such as Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Hickson are all candidates for the Most Improved Player on the roster, and even Lillard could be the guy if he proves he can score at the next level.
The problem is, not one of those guys stepped up consistently in the preseason, and it leaves you wondering if Aldridge is going to be on his own again throughout parts of the new year.
This team needs somebody new to produce, and at this point, it’s anybody’s guess as to who that’s going to be.
It won’t be pretty at times, as a young roster is bound to get lost at some point in the year, but the brand of basketball in 2013 will be far more entertaining than what we saw late last season.
The names on the backs of the jerseys are different, but the biggest reason for the change can be found in Terry Stotts’ system. As a coach who wants to run, shoot threes and play from the outside in, his ideologies on the court couldn’t be further from what we’ve seen in recent years.
Young players are finally getting a chance to play in Portland, which is something they couldn’t say under former head coach Nate McMillan. This team is going to be exciting to watch, even if they end up in the lottery again in 2013.
We still don’t know exactly who is going to be a part of the 15-man official roster, but we do know that the Trail Blazers are going to be one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the entire NBA.
Expectations are not high in the national media, but the same can’t necessarily be said for fans around PDX.
Two lottery picks, an All-Star forward and a New Team with a New Dream should all equate to success right away, right?
Maybe, maybe not.
For all we know, this team will come out and surprise everybody; but for all we suspect, it may be a long season in Rip City.