Jim Mora may not have been talking about the Portland Trail Blazers when he infamously went off on the unlikely notion of the playoffs, but the sentiment is shared by many regarding this year’s squad in PDX, and fans and media alike have begun to prepare themselves for another long season. (Shout-out to my colleague Steve Lee)
But wait just a second fans…
The Blazers might have more going for them than you think.
Portland had one of its most disappointing seasons in recent memory in 2012. But with a new point guard, a new coach and a new outlook on things, the team can get back to the postseason much sooner than some may have anticipated.
New Coach = New Batum
That being said, he’s likely to experience a whole new kind of offense in 2013.
In the past, Batum has been used as a spot-up shooter buried in the corner. Now, with the team looking to run next season, he just might produce the kind of consistency and aggressiveness that fans have been waiting to see the past few seasons.
LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be another beneficiary of Terry Stotts coming into town.
Stotts used Dirk Nowitzki to perfection at time with the Dallas Mavericks. His goal is to use LaMarcus Aldridge similarly in Portland, and if he can, we could see Aldridge take his game to yet another level.
Damian Lillard: The Future is Now
Damian Lillard was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Trail Blazers for a reason—he’s going to start, and he’s going to contribute right away.
The rookie point guard has been criticized in the past for being too much of a scorer, but when it comes down to it, that’s exactly what the Trail Blazers need.
The team needs a player who can take the pressure off of Aldridge with his scoring, yet can set him up regularly with his play-making abilities.
Damian Lillard can be that player.
The best part? If all goes according to plan, he’ll actually help Aldridge improve his game as well.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a True Go-To Option
Aldridge and Lillard have the potential to become a great pick-and-roll combo, and if they can establish the two-man game early, it’s going to be fun to watch what they can do on the court this season.
That being said, Aldridge is still the man on the Trail Blazers roster.
When the Blazers hit the reset button in the mid-2000s, they attempted to build around rookies. This time around they have a player who has improved drastically over the past two years and has proven he can take over a game from start to finish.
This team is rebuilding, but they’re not starting from scratch.
Wide-Open Western Conference
The Western Conference may be extremely tough at the top, but the bottom has seemingly left the final seeds wide open for any team to grab.
It’s true that most teams have improved as a result of free agency and a stellar draft class, but the teams who will be fighting late in the year all have a chance at sneaking into the playoffs.
Teams such as the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz might be favored in numerous circles, but the Trail Blazers aren’t far behind—especially if Batum, Aldridge and Lillard have great offensive seasons.
It’s going to be a fun year to watch, and if the Blazers come out with high energy all season long, this team can make a run at the postseason in 2013.