Final grades for the 2012-13 Portland Trail Blazers

How’d they do?

The 2012-13 NBA season has come to an end—for the Portland Trail Blazers, at least—so it’s time to reflect upon the year that was. There were goods, there were bads; there were higs, there were lows.

There were a whole lot of surprises, and a whole lot of disappointments.

With each player that excelled throughout the year, there was one that simply couldn’t step up. That’s why the team is on the outside looking in during the postseason, and that’s why a good number of players could be gone in 2014.

*Only players who logged minutes are eligible for a 2012-13 grade.

Ronnie Price: Incomplete

Nolan Smith

Nolan Smith will follow Ronnie Price out the door next season. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ronnie Price’s time in Portland was cut short at the trade deadline. He was waived following the trade that brought over Eric Maynor, and while he showed he can at least play without making mistakes, that wasn’t enough to keep him in town.

Nolan Smith: F

Nolan Smith will not be returning to the Trail Blazers for the 2013-14 season, and it’s easy to see why. The point guard didn’t see the floor much, but when he did, he was as unproductive as anyone on the roster.

Smith shot just 36.8 percent from the floor, including 21.4 percent from deep range. His form needs work, his court vision must improve and if he gets the opportunity to work on his game, it won’t be in Rip City.

Sasha Pavlovic: F

Aside from making the occasional wide open jump shot, Sasha Pavlovic didn’t do much for the Blazers. He played in just 39 games, and he averaged a lackluster 2.6 points on 35.3 percent shooting.

From clock management to simple rotations, Pavlovic never quite fit in with Portland.

Luke Babbitt: D-

Luke Babbitt’s time in Portland has been filled with both ups and down. Unfortunately for the forward, the bad has heavily outweighed the good up to this point.

Despite earning a mysterious third-place vote for Sixth Man of the Year—seriously, NBA voters?—Babbitt’s year was underwhelming at best. He’s 6’9” and can’t rebound, and he’s a pure shooter who nailed less than 35 percent of his three-point shots.

Babbitt can get hot when the stars align, but 2012-13 wasn’t his season.

Jared Jeffries: D

The Trail Blazers have a tendency to shuffle veteran (aging) big men in and out of the bottom of their bench. First it was Juwan Howard, then it was Kurt Thomas and this time it was Jared Jeffries.

Jeffries’ primary role was to clog the middle and take charges, and while he was good at both, he never found a way to contribute in other areas.

Joel Freeland: D+

Nobody quite knew what to expect out of Joel Freeland at the start of the year. He was the center from England who had the all-around game, but nobody knew how his versatile skill set would translate at the NBA level.

As it turned out, the adjustment was a slow process, and will continue to be one throughout his time in Portland.

Will Barton: D+

Will Barton began to show some incredible potential when the starters were sitting with injuries. During his final five outings, he averaged 16.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and two steals.

If that production had come out sooner, he’d have a higher grade to finish the season. However, we can’t forget the struggles he endured most of the year—struggles that were highlighted by fundamental mistakes night in and night out.

Victor Claver: C-

Call me crazy, but I like Victor Claver’s game.

The forward won’t ever be a starter on the current Trail Blazers roster, but he has a chance to be a legitimate player off the bench. Like the rest of the reserves, his game began to improve with more minutes down the stretch, but his aggressiveness was apparent during much of the season.

Meyers Leonard isn't on Damian Lillard's level, but he showed potential in 2012-13. (Photo: Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

Meyers Leonard isn’t on Damian Lillard’s level, but he showed potential in 2012-13. (Photo: Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

Backdoor cuts and strong takes to the rim were fun to watch; he just needs to improve his shot and continue to add strength on both sides of the court.

Meyers Leonard: C

Meyers Leonard has a lot of work to do if he wants to be a starting center. Luckily for him, he showed signs of competence during his rookie season.

At 7’1”, Leonard has the size to defend the rim. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the toughness – not yet, at least.

On the other side of the floor, Leonard never quite jelled with the team, but he showed flashes of an emerging offensive game. He can play in transition and hit the mid-range shot, so if he develops a low-post skill set, he’ll be an excellent addition to the offensive set.

Eric Maynor: B-

When it comes to Eric Maynor, the story is much less about numbers and much more about his role. The point guard stepped onto a Portland roster that had no depth and added a level of competence off the bench that had been previously unseen.

He wasn’t the savior the team needed, but he was one of the only players to provide entertainment on a struggling second unit.

Wesley Matthews: B-

Wesley Matthews had a good season for the Trail Blazers. He improved his shooting from all over the floor, he continued to play solid defense and he showed why he can be viewed as the vocal leader on this young team.

It’s true that Matthews was inconsistent when it came to hot streaks and shooting slumps, but he also proved he can be counted upon late in games when the team needs a bucket.

Now imagine if he’d been healthy the whole year.

Nicolas Batum: B

GM Neil Olshey took a number of chances during his first summer with the Trail Blazers. He drafted Damian Lillard, he attempted to sign Roy Hibbert and he matched the lucrative deal that the Minnesota Timberwolves used in their attempt to pry away Nicolas Batum.

The Batum deal is still up for debate, but it appears as if it will pay off sooner rather than later.

The small forward began the year impressing everybody with his playmaking skills and willingness to expand his offensive game. Unfortunately, his post All-Star performance was less impressive, as he came down to Earth with the playoffs on the line.

JJ Hickson: B+

The Trail Blazers signed JJ Hickson to a one-year deal last summer, and it’s safe to say they got their money worth.

Hickson became a double-double threat despite being undersized. He played well against bigger opponents, and while his interior defense was atrocious on most nights, nobody expected him to defend the rim as a 6’9” center.

Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge were the two leaders of this Trail Blazers team.

Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge were the two leaders of this Trail Blazers team.

Damian Lillard: A-

If you thought Lillard was going to be a bust, we can now say with confidence that you were 100 percent wrong.

Lillard entered the league as an ultra-talented, score-first point guard whose ability to run an offense was questionable at best. Everybody knew he had the skills and athleticism to succeed, but his production proved to be more than even his most optimistic fans expected.

An historical rookie year was everything the organization dreamed of. He must improve defensively, and his shot selection could be better at times, but there’s no question that the team has found its franchise point guard.

LaMarcus Alrdidge: A

LaMarcus Aldridge is the team’s All-Star and best player, and while the future may be all about Lillard, the power forward was the most consistent player from start to finish.

He was arguably the best player in the NBA at this position, and he was better on the defensive end than most give him credit for. He finished the year with the most games of 25 points and 10 rebounds, and he also finished with the most games of 30 and 10.

Aldridge’s future with the team has recently been brought into question (via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports), but there’s no debating that he had a fantastic showing in 2013.


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About Bryant Knox

NWSB Editor. Portland native and Oregon graduate, On a non-stop mission to consume as much Ducks+Trail Blazers content as humanly possible. His love of sports is what attracts him to the game, passion for writing drives him to uncover the stories. Connect w/ Bryant today!
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