The Case Against the Blazers this season
The Blazers this season are drastically worse than last season. How can the Blazers expect to win big games with a Rookie Point Guard leading the team who cannot play defense? Leonard will never be a starting center in the league and Freeland and Claver cannot even make the team's rotation. Batum is overpaid and will not be able to live up to his contract. Matthews still cannot create his own shot and Aldridge can't defend the interior all on his own. J.J. Hickson would be a bench player on most teams ( a la Carl Landry). The Blazes have no depth and no interior defense, meaning any injury whatsoever would be the end of this team's potential success. The team is inexperienced and untested, which does not bode well for wins.
The Front office made some changes, but not necessarily good ones. Neil Olshey has made some questionable decisions in the past - including trading away a top pick that turned out to be Kyrie Irving. Terry Stotts was hired as head coach; Stotts has already proved that he cannot succeed as a head coach from his stint with Milwaukee. He may be able to coach a good oreinted offensive team, but he cannot implement a good defense.
The Blazers will be lucky to get to 30 wins this season with a lack of depth and no interior defense. Even if the Blazers do bad this season there is no hope outside the top 3 players in the upcoming draft, meaning Blazers may have to settle next year for another mediocre season.
The Case For the Blazers
Despite what experts say, this team is an improvement on last years. Lillard is an upgrade over Felton, Matthews is in the best shape of his life and is clearly improved. Batum will only get better and Aldridge can be counted on every game to have a solid night. Damian Lillard may very well turn out to be the best Point Guard in the history of the team and Leonard will learn the game in order to be the top defesive minded center Portland needs. The new additions of Claver and Freeland add depth that will only get better. The starting lineup for the Blazers can all shoot the ball well, which is more than can be said about some of the players last year (Felton, Crawford, Camby). This team is already better just by having those players gone.
The Front office finally got their act together and added a big name GM with a proven record. Neil Olshey was able to get Chris Paul to the Clippers, and take chances in the draft with players like Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordon that paid off. Nate McMillan was finally hired after last year's disaster which saw many of the players turn against Nate. Paul Allen and Neil Olshey hired Terry Stotts. Known as an offensive genius Stotts will automatically introduce more spacing and motion with the ball. Less isolation for the Blazers means less predictable play and the chance for every player to get the ball during the game. Carslie credits Stotts with much of the offense that transformed the Mavericks into a championship team. While Stotts may not be the most defensive minded coach in the league, it plays to the player's strength in being able to spread the floor and push the ball on the fast break.
The 8th seed is up for grabs, and the Blazers could easily see themselves playing come playoff time. With the west wide open with various injuries to other teams. The Blazers could use it as an opprotunity to do what what everyone said they couldn't - make the playoffs.
The Blazers this season are at a crossroads of medocritity, most likely good enough to beat the Suns, Kings, Warriors, and the Hornets, but not good enough to beat teams like the Thunder, Clippers, Lakers. and Spurs. The Blazers may be able to harness the home court, as many young teams do and win some games against superior opponents, but the Blazers are not a complete team. The Blazers have no depth and have little interior defense. These things downfall of the team. If even one player goes down with an injury there are no capable backups, and the Blazers have no true starting center to defend the paint. The Blazers will try to outrun their opponents and out shoot them to win. The problem is if the Blazers are not making their outiside shots they are not going to win. At least the Blazers have their PGOTF now though.
Damian Lillard has a good chance of becoming ROY, and become the franchise Point Guard Portland has wanted for decades. Lillard might be a star offensively, but defensively he is a liability - he will improve overtime, but don't be surprised when he is torched be athletic Point Guards game after game. Make no mistake though, he is an upgrade over Felton.
The front office made some good, albeit nonflashy moves in the offseason by hiring a General Manager who, by all indications gets along with Paul Allen, and has a fairly positive track record. Terry Stotts style of coaching fits the player's strengths and the players seem to like him. The defense has little to be desired, but that is more of a player personnel problem than a coaching problem.
The Blazers most likely will miss the playoffs and be between the 9-11 seed as currently constructed. Dallas, Phoenix, Hornets, Warriors, and Kings are the only teams you can be able to make a case are worse than the Blazers.