With all significant moves now in the past (and more likely, all moves altogether), the Blazers’ roster is set. We know who will be there come the season opener, and we have a good idea of who will play in the regular rotation.
Portland’s starting lineup is as easy to predict as any starting five across the Association. Simply put: It’s going to be the exact same as it was last season.
Barring a significant turn of events (injury, poor play, major trade, etc.), the first five at tipoff will look as follows:
Looking at the roster as it stands, the Blazers don’t have a true sixth man. They don’t have Mo Williams coming off the bench to provide a scoring boost, which is why we look at the starting lineup to determine which player will likely see the pine first.
Of the five starters from last season, Robin Lopez played the fewest minutes per game. He saw 31.8 minutes per contest, and while he unquestionably earned every one of those minutes, he’ll have more opportunities to rest next season with added help at the center position.
That added help comes in the form of Chris Kaman. The former Los Angeles Laker was signed by Portland this summer as a way of challenging Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard to improve, but more immediately, as a way to give the Blazers production down low when Lopez takes a seat.
Terry Stotts ran a 10-man rotation at times this past season, but most traditional organizations feature a nine- or even eight-man set from night to night. As the playoffs near, you’ll see more and more teams decreasing that number to eight (or sometimes fewer), but let’s consider what Portland’s key reserves will look like when the season tips off.
There are a couple of variables that will determine whether the above-mentioned players earn consistent spots in the rotation. First and foremost, how well can C.J. McCollum play when given an entire season? His rookie year was delayed because of a broken foot in training camp, and while he played well at times in Las Vegas this summer, inconsistency has been, and could continue to be, a problem.
Another thing to look out for is the consistency of both Will Barton and Dorell Wright. Dorell Wright never proved himself to be the lights-out shooter he was supposed to be last season, and Barton’s often-erratic style of play is cause for concern in half-court sets.
The other three positions should be set, but as we know, things can change throughout the course of a long season, so there’s no telling for sure who will be in the same rotational position come the postseason.
Following the summer league, it’s clear that Meyers Leonard isn’t ready to be a rotational players — especially with Kaman now on board. He still looks lost at times when rotating defensively, and while his ability to shoot well and run the floor are potential assets, Portland needs a defensive stopper and someone who can threaten to put the ball in the basket in the paint.
Sticking with the post positions, Joel Freeland actually played well when healthy last season. The question is: Can he play well enough to earn minutes over Kaman?
That answer is likely a resounding ‘no.’
Then you’ve got the rest of the crew, which comprises only Allen Crabbe and Victor Claver. Don’t expect either player to see significant minutes during the 2014-15 campaign, especially as the rotation gets cut down late in the year.