The good and the bad
Here is a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each player in the projected starting lineup:
Meyers Leonard, C
Meyers Leonard enters the NBA as the tallest player from the 2012 draft class, but you’d never guess it by watching him run up and down the court with ease.
Leonard and fellow newcomer Joel Freeland may share time at the 5-spot this season, but whenever Leonard is on the floor, the Blazers will have the chance to play in a way that not many other teams can—both big and fast.
Weakness: Low-Post Strength
Like most NBA rookies, Leonard is going to need to add muscle. Despite his height, it’s going to be tough for him to bang down low with the bigs of today’s game.
On both offense and defense, Leonard will thrive in the mid-range game, but if he’s going to become a true center, he’ll have to get low and help balance out a roster that is primarily perimeter-based.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF
Strength: Shooting/Spread the Floor
Despite all of his improvements over the years, LaMarcus Aldridge’s biggest strength remains his jump shot.
Every season it seems his range increases closer and closer to the three-point line, and while he’s improved drastically in the low-post, he’s still most dangerous when he’s spreading the floor.
Weakness: Low-Post Defense
Aldridge has become a better rebounder over the past few seasons, but his low-post defense remains an area where he must improve.
Having averaged less than a block per game last year, Aldridge needs to work on his timing and physicality on the block.
Nicolas Batum, SF
Strength: Three-Point Shooting
Nicolas Batum’s career has been filled with inconsistencies up to this point, but if we know anything at all, it’s that he has the potential to be a great three-point shooter.
Having never shot less than 34.5 percent (3PT) for his career, he nearly reached 40 percent in 2012—a year that saw him set the Blazers’ record for three-pointers in a game (9).
Part of the issue here has been the way Batum has been used. Under Nate McMillan—and alongside Brandon Roy—he was asked to stand in the corner and wait for his shot.
However, when given the opportunity, he hasn’t always stepped up to the task.
With an increased assertiveness will come better rebounding, scoring and defense—all things we’ve expected out of the 6’8” forward for nearly four years now.
Wesley Matthews, SG
Strength: Perimeter Defense
Wesley Matthews’ strength is perimeter defense, but it should more specifically be his hands. The 25-year old guard has some of the quickest hands in the game, and he’s been known to get low and pop the ball out of players’ hands when the game is on the line.
Three-point shooting is an honorable mention, as he’s shot better than 39 percent from distance on his career.
Damian Lillard, PG
Damian Lillard was a score-first point guard at Weber State, and although he must transition to more of a facilitator in the NBA, he also needs to remember what got him where he is today.
His ability to shoot from the three-point line, finish above the rim and spread the floor in the pick-and-roll all comes down to one simple concept—this kid can put the ball in the basket.
Weakness: Perimeter Defense
Having never faced the level of competition he’s about to endure, it’s easy to imagine Lillard struggling to defend the league’s best point guards.
Lillard has been known to let players around him in the past, and if he doesn’t improve early, it’s only going to get worse at the NBA level.