The year was 2009-10 and the Blazers had two young stars in Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge; and a possible budding future star in Greg Oden. General managers across the league were voting this team the next “up-and-coming” team to beat. They were built to win for a long time with Roy, Aldridge and Oden anchoring the lineup with a decent supporting cast in Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby. This — Blazer fans will remember well — was the last time they made the playoffs; in fact they won 50 games that season.
Fast forward four years to this season and the high hopes are there once again. After retooling the lineup this offseason and hitting some homerun draft picks in years past, GM Neil Olshey looks to have found the right formula. Again, they have two stars as the pillars of the lineup in Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge — however, now they have much more than a decent supporting cast. Nicolas Batum is really starting to come into his own, Wesley Matthews is a great two-way player, they have Robin Lopez to anchor the defense and they finally have some punch off the bench with Mo Williams and Dorell Wright. Still not a believer?
It’s Still Very Early…
Monday night marked the Blazers’ third straight victory, albeit all against sub-.500 teams, but good teams win the games they are supposed to win and that’s exactly what Rip City is doing. Monday’s home game against the Detroit Pistons was not an easy task; however, the Blazers have shown they can score with anybody as they surpassed the 100-point mark once again winning 109-103. CHALUPAS FOR ALL!
Some of the newcomers were key in this victory. Robin Lopez posted his second straight double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, Mo Williams shot a blistering 8-for-11 from the floor and finished with 17 points and Dorell Wright added 11 points off the bench as well — all were season highs for each player. Stotts has urged Lillard to really push the pace and it has shown early in the season as they are putting up points in bunches.
Frankly, they haven’t really played too tough of competition to start the year; but again good teams win the games they should. Their two losses came against the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets, who are a combined 10-5 to start the season; while their wins have come against the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs (their only loss), Sacramento Kings (twice) and the Detroit Pistons. The combined record for the teams they have beaten you ask? A mere 12-14 early on in this NBA season.
Consistency is Key
I have been critical of the way head coach Terry Stotts has used his bench so far this season (read it here) but one thing that has been key has been the consistency with the starting lineup. Worries started in the preseason when the projected starting lineup failed to play a single minute on the court together — however Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge and Lopez have each started all seven games to start the season. Calming thought, considering the Blazers had 10 players start at least one game last season. Will these five starters be able to start and play all 82 games together? Highly unlikely, but the more it happens the more chemistry they gain; which can only lead to more wins as they meld together along with the much-improved bench.
My preseason projection had the Blazers finishing eighth in the Western Conference and I’m sticking by my guns on this one, however I could be wrong … they could finish higher.
Agree or disagree? Either way let me know what you think on twitter: @Chris_Reichert