Team Name: Portland Trail Blazers
Last Year’s Record: 54-28
Key Losses: Sergio Rodriguez, Channing Frye
Key Additions: Andre Miller, Martell Webster, Dante Cunningham, Juwan Howard
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
The most recognized move from the off-season has to be the addition of Andre Miller who's impact has been instantly felt on and off the court, but the most important move of all was probably signing Brandon Roy to a long term deal. It's pretty obvious that this team will live and die with Roy and his successes. We can talk about the addition of Miller, the growth of Aldridge, and the coming-out-party of Oden, but if Roy were to leave, Portland would be in a load of trouble.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Last season, Portland was one of, if not the most, efficient teams in the NBA. This season, they should be as efficient plus even more explosive. Andre Miller adds something the team has been lacking for years and that's a point guard who is a match-up nightmare for the opposition. And with Oden showing mass improvements in preseason contests and a lack of proven centers in the west, the Blazers should find buckets coming even easier.
This team is also one of the deepest in the league. In fact, the entire preseason has been filled with speculation as to who's playing when and where. With a legitimate back-up at each position, the second unit for the Blazers might just be their biggest asset. We'll keep hoping these preseason battles don't tear apart the team's cohesion.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
For a team that rattled off 54 wins last year, they have some pretty glaring weaknesses that teams could easily exploit. When you ask for a poster child of poor pick-and-roll defense, you'll see the gigantic frowning face of Nate McMillan. It doesn't matter which pick-and-roll defensive scheme is decided upon because you'll see zero success with this team running any of them.
Let's also not forget that the Blazers are below average in their transition defensive and struggle with turnovers on a nightly basis. Plus, they can't seem to get anyone to turn on the burners and push the ball for any easy buckets of their own. I haven't looked at the numbers, but Portland has got to be one of the lowest teams in the NBA for fast break points. Andre Miller should help to increase those numbers.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The team keeps saying that winning the Northwest division is their goal. As a fan, I'll say that anything less than an appearance in the Western Conference Finals would be a disappointment. Seems like a lofty goal right? Well if you aren't expecting this team to blow through the first round of the Playoffs and likely push through to the WCF's, then you are expecting mediocrity. With key additions and rising talents, why would you expect anything else?
5. How do the Blazer Dancers stack up in the Western Conference?
As a Blazers blog that loves covering our scantily clad dancers, we don't want to come down on them too hard, but with the amount of "talent" amongst opposing Western Conference dance teams, we'll have to call this a rebuilding year. (Sorry!) There are a few new faces, a ton of returners, and a couple of sisters that are definitely missed. I'll just have to direct you to the Suns, Nuggets, and Clippers dance teams to let you form your own opinion on the competition.
Projected Finish: 1st Northwest - 3rd Western Conference
*Note - A big thanks to thanks goes out to the crew at Celtics Blog for putting together this fantastic preview series again this year. We're glad to be a part of it. Make sure to check out the rest of the schedule of NBA team previews here.