2014-2015 NBA Season Analysis- Portland Trail Blazers
Pretty much like I said about the Mavs, the Portland Trail Blazers have an outstanding starting line-up with amazingly talented players, but once again I believe the lack of depth in their bench will keep them away from the top spots in the Western Conference. The arrival of solid players like Steve Blake and Chris Kaman has certainly helped them get some production off the bench, but they’re going to need contribution from more players if they want to get to the next level in the Wild West.
Coach: Terry Stotts
PG: Damian Lillard; Steve Blake
SG: Wesley Matthews; C. J. McCollum; Will Barton; Allen Crabbe
SF: Nicolas Batum; Dorell Wright; Victor Claver
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge; Thomas Robinson; Joel Freeland
C: Robin Lopez; Meyers Leonard; Chris Kaman
Let’s talk about the offensive end of the basketball court first:
The Portland Trail Blazers are a very well-coached basketball team, and you can see that straight away taking a look at their offense. Obviously, having players like Aldridge or Lillard always helps when it comes to executing your offense well because of their ability to score the basketball and all the attention they require, but the Blazers always seem to find good shots for everyone in the team.
They love that flare screen on the top of the key to find open perimeter shots for Wesley Matthews mainly, but also for Lillard and Batum (depending on who’s handling the ball), and it seems to work out pretty well. Pick and roll between Lillard and Aldridge is certainly one of their main offensive weapons as well because of how big of a threat both players are. Aldridge’s defender doesn’t really know whether to help out on Lillard’s penetrations, stay with his man not to give up an open shot or simply switch. This is really a tough spot for the opposing defence. If the power forward decides to stay with Aldridge not to give up an open shot for him (we all know how deadly he is from any spot on the court), it’ll be easier for Damian to get to the painted area where he can certainly get easy points or find open shooters, or he’ll get enough room to release his amazingly smooth shot from downtown if the point guard decides to go under the screen. On the other hand, if the opposing four decides to help out on Lillard’s penetration, Aldridge will get either an open shot or a miss-match, forcing some other defender to come over and double team, eventually leading to an open perimeter shot for one of Portland’s great shooters. That’s how hard it is for teams to defend this play successfully. Or they can just throw the ball to Aldridge on the post as well and let him take care of business (he can shoot over anyone and find the open man if the double team comes).
However, I believe Nicolas Batum is the key player for their success. He’s having a bad season shooting the basketball, but he’s a tremendous all-around player who helps the Blazers in so many ways. He’s got great ball handling skills and the ability to create plays for his teammates, allowing Lillard to play off the ball often times. He’s also a guy who can space the floor and a great athlete who can certainly finish at the rim and get offensive rebounds as well.
Another key player for them is Robin Lopez, who’s a great finisher around the rim and sets solid screens that really allow his teammates to get separation and find themselves open for outside shots. I believe they’ve really been missing his inside presence in the last month.
They also love to give Wesley Matthews some touches on the low post, where he’s stronger than most shooting guards and has the ability to get some easy points or find both the open man in the perimeter and cutters.
Finally, the Blazers had two good acquisitions in Blake and Kaman, who are really providing toughness and great minutes off the bench (outside points and leadership the former, and low post and mid-range scoring the latter).
To sum up, the Portland Trail Blazers are a really talented offensive team, but they’ll need Batum to increase his numbers as well as some contribution off the bench at some point, besides Blake and Kaman (from guys like McCollum, Wright, Robinson or Leonard- who's unexpectedly starting to become an outside threat-).
Let’s now switch on to the defensive end of the court:
This is the end of the floor I believe they need to improve if they want to compete with the better teams in the Western Conference. And here’s where Batum and Lopez really become pivotal for the Blazers team. Batum’s a great versatile individual defender who also does a lot of the dirty job for them. He can defend almost anyone from the point guard to the power forward spot, a great rebounder as well, blocks shots, gets a lot of deflections… And Robin Lopez is simply an inside presence they lack, a better rim protector than most people give him credit for, and a very capable individual defender on the post. He’s a tough low post defender, who makes it really hard for opposing big to score as well as a willing helper, what also allows LaMarcus Aldridge to have better defensive match-ups, so that the opposing team doesn’t make him work on defence that much and he can have fresher legs to be able to display his full repertoire on the offensive end of the court.
Then, the Blazers have some athletic players who can really defend if they’re committed in Matthews, Lillard or Thomas Robinson, and a guy like Blake who despite his lack of athleticism has always found a way to be effective defensively.
So I do believe they can become a decent defensive team if several key guys are committed and Robin Lopez can stay healthy throughout the remainder of the season and Playoffs (they’ve really missed his inside presence in the last month, falling a couple of spots in the Western Conference standings).
Likely Starting Line-up
Lillard – Matthews – Batum – Aldridge – Lopez
The Blazers have a pretty solid starting line-up with some elite players like LaMarcus Aldridge (best power forward in the game to me) and Damian Lillard, but as I said before, the lack of production off the bench won’t enable them to get to the top spots in such a competitive Conference, so my prediction is the Portland Trail Blazers will finally clinch #7 seed in the West.
Are the Blazers good enough to become a contender in the West?
This is the very best from the Portland Trail Blazers players in the last NBA season.