For the true NBA junkie, the only real way to enjoy a regular season is through NBA League Pass. You get every game that’s not on national TV or in your market (although, for some odd reason, we’re blacked out of Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks games in Nashville, TN). Aside from watching the top match-ups and following my fantasy team, there’s always a few teams I find myself watching more often than others. This upcoming season, I’m excited for the Portland Trailblazers to be one of those squads.
Portland quietly had one of the best starting lineups in the NBA last year. Damian Lillard, reigning Rookie of the Year, was a delightful surprise, averaging 19.0 PPG, 6.5 APG and 3.1 RPG. Furthermore, Lillard led the entire NBA in minutes played. Just chew on that for a second. Portland’s bench was so bad that their rookie point guard played more minutes than LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Luol Deng, Kevin Durant, AND EVERYONE ELSE. CJ McCollum, this year’s tenth pick, figures to slot in as the third guard and get plenty of looks. Portland likes the idea of two ball-handling combo guards in one backcourt. Wes Matthews has become a deadly shooter and a solid rim rattler. While no one questions Matthews’ toughness, he’s become pretty injury prone and needs to stay on the court. The same goes for Nic Batum, the lanky, über-talented French wing with fists of fury. LaMarcus Aldridge (important cog in the death machine that was my fantasy team) has proven to at least be a consistent 20-9 guy, even if he might have tried to skip town before this off-season’s restocking of the bench.
Last season, JJ Hickson started at center and was captain of the Great Stats Shitty Player All-Stars, averaging a double-double. Portland recognized this, let Hickson walk, and flipped a couple second round picks into Robin Lopez, a legitimate starting center that will improve their back line of defense. The dirty little secret about last year’s Blazers was their horrendous bench. While their starters would keep them in games and often win them, the bench would give leads back all too easily. This summer, building the bench was a focus of GM Neil Olshey and it’s shown. Aside from first round pick CJ McCollum, Portland added former top five pick Thomas Robinson, sharpshooter Dorell Wright and the perpetually overlooked Mo Williams. Now, with a rotation that goes eight or nine deep, Portland looks like a playoff competitor out West. With such talented young players, I can’t wait to watch these guys play. Also, who doesn’t love Rip City? (Besides Zach Randolph).