If you’re a fan of the NBA and haven’t been living under a rock you’d have noticed the sudden resurgence of the Portland Trailblazers. A lot have people have put it down to luck, a bad schedule or just haven’t really cared. Note this down. The Portland Trailblazers are for real, and they’re coming for your team next.
The reason I’m taking the Blazers seriously is because they beat the Spurs and the Pacers and have had a couple of big comeback wins lately. They’re two things you need to do to prove your success isn’t based on hot shooting and luck. Sure, the Blazers’ system heavily relies on the players’ ability and not heavily developed plays. Sure, they take an enormous amount of threes and there defence is average at best. But they’re 14-3 and top of the West.
The thing the Blazers bring to the table that a lot of other teams don’t, is a ridiculous amount of versatility on offense. They have a multitude of weapons from Lillard to Aldridge, Matthews to Batum with a sidedish of Mo Williams and Dorrell Wright and coming soon.. CJ McCollum. The Blazers have an inside-out threat so if Matthews and the other shooters are cold, they can give the ball to Aldridge and let him knock down some midrangers. The craziest thing I’ve noticed about the Blazers is the amount of times they don’t just rely on Lillard, who’s arguably the most important piece of the puzzle. Often times they run a pick and roll between Batum and Lopez or give the ball to either Matthews or Aldridge and Lillard feeds off the scraps. He usually hasn’t shot a field goal until the second quarter. It provides Lillard with an opportunity to become a really efficient facilitator, and when teams begin to focus on the other offensive threats, that’s when Lillard will strive. What’s also worth noting about Dame is his commitment to improvement in defense. Numerous times this year he’s been forced to take the other team’s floor general, and although he isn’t lockdown, he has become tough to be beat, plus his off-the-ball defense has improved also.
The most noticeable and influential difference between the new and old Blazers is the development of Wesley Matthews as a premier scoring 2 guard. He was left off the All-star ballot, something that didn’t please him in the slightest, he has donned himself as the ‘dark knight’ and so far he has lived up to it. Maybe before Aldridge, Matthews is the Blazers’ second option, coming off screens, driving to the bucket or being the open man when LA gets double-teamed down low. He’s beginning to shoot really efficiently and limit shots off the dribble.
Nicolas Batum has really improved this year too, improving his versatility on offence, whether it’s running that pick and roll with Lopez or spotting up in the corner, Batum has also made himself into a tough guy to contain when he’s hot.
Of course, by this stage everyone knows what LaMarcus Aldridge is capable of; knocking down elbow J’s and fadeaways like he was Ray Allen in the corner, but he has strived this year because if teams’ inability to collapse on him because of their outside threats. Aldridge has also become a consistent 20-10 guy, solidifying his place among the top-tier power forwards in the association.
They made a couple if sneaky changes this off-season, signing Robin Lopez who has been excellent, whether it’s catching boards, protecting the rim or finishing pick-and-rolls with Nic on the other end. One thing that has helped the Blazers is their bench. Last year, they had the worst bench in the league and they suffered tremendously when they had to sit their starters. This year though they have great guys to come in for solid minutes and not only maintain a lead but build one. Often times they’ve called upon Mo Williams to come in and get buckets or for Dorell Wright to step in to get some stops, space the floor and knock down open treys. The additions of the exciting Thomas Robinson and Joel Freeland have helped maintain a steadiness in the frontcourt and I certainly haven’t given up on T-Rob I think that he’ll be the star of this team in two years or less. As I said earlier, CJ McCollum, who has been unavailable due to a fractured foot, will light it up when he’s healthy. Depending on how he fits into the rotation he’ll be the rookie of the year, mark my words.
These Blazers could do something special this year and if my Knicks don’t step up it’s between Rip city and Indiana. And it could be for a long time.