Simple question: Where does the Blazers scoring come from this year? Looking at every player we have left from last season who played at least 10 minutes a game, we get:
LMA - 21.7
Batum - 13.9
Matthews - 13.7
Hickson - 8.4
Babbit - 5.1
N. Smith - 3.8
Total - 66.6 points
Even if Lillard lights it up that's not exactly a scoring lineup you'd want to put money on. So how do you see the Blazers breaking 90 points this year?
I don't think the Blazers will be lighting up the league scoring but I don't foresee them being horrible either. If you look at the really poor scoring teams in this league you'll find a couple common characteristics. Either:
1. They have no #1 option to speak of. Or...
2. Their #1 option is a point guard with a poor shooting percentage.
Boston and Cleveland shade towards these categories. Kevin Garnett was more or less a viable scoring option for the Celtics last year at 19 per game. Kyrie Irving shot a high percentage for the Cavs en route to 18.5. Everybody else in the bottom ten fits smack into the profile.
Having LaMarcus Aldridge as their #1 option should keep the Blazers from the scoring cellar. He shoots a great percentage. He draws defensive attention, allowing other players to shoot a higher percentage as well. Damian Lillard will make the Portland attack two-pronged. He may not put up amazing numbers immediately but he will keep defenders from leaving him. I think Wesley Matthews has his eye on a scoring increase this year as well. He showed signs of wanting an offensive promotion last year but the whole team went kablooey. This is the year for Matthews and Nicolas Batum to show what they've got. You should see both boost their averages.
The real problem here is that Portland's bench would lose Summer League games were they inserted as a unit. In the actual NBA they'd get killed. Without any scoring punch off the bench outside of J.J. Hickson--able to substitute only in small doses--the Blazers will rely on big minutes from their starters. Fatigue and fitness will become issues as the season wears on.
The good news: except for making some long shots fall short, fatigue doesn't destroy offenses. Somehow players always find enough energy to put up a shot.
The bad news: Portland's defense may become a serious issue.
At first this seems counter-intuitive. Matthews and Batum are known for their defense. Aldridge is no slouch. Defending should be a strength. But defense relies on sums, not parts. We know Lillard doesn't defend well. Matthews and Batum should be able to help with that. But what about center? Meyers Leonard could become a good defender but he's not there yet. He'll be as likely to foul out as to save a game with defense. Behind him lies the great void, converted forwards trying to man the middle. One hole in the "D" is no big deal. Two holes, one on either end of the order, could be. Now factor in the aforementioned fatigue leeching the will and quickness of even the best defenders in the starting lineup. Also consider that the best offensive players off of Portland's bench don't defend a lick. Forecasting potential trouble is no great leap.
When considering the Portland Trail Blazers' offense you can always say, "When in doubt there's LaMarcus." On defense you say, "When in doubt there's...doubt." That'll be the bigger hurdle to overcome in the new season.