I am SO surprised by the way this season is unfolding. Last week I posted about it, so I won't go into too much more detail regarding my errant expectations this season. Suffice it to say, I'm shocked at how good we are playing. This Blazers team was not supposed to be 5 games over .500 this late in the season. We definitely weren't supposed to be 5-1 at this point in January (In case you've been living under a rock for the last 2 weeks, we've just beaten NY, Memphis, the T-Wolves, and Miami - 3/4 of those on the road). Batum, Matthews, and Aldridge (Matthews especially) seem so ridiculously confident and self-assured - as though this was their expectation for this season all along - that I'm starting to get a little cocky myself. I mean, are we really this good?
Here's my assessment (again, a much different assessment after seeing the first 35 games unfold):
- We have 2 lockdown defenders in Matthews and Batum.
- We have 3 different 3 point specialists in Matthews, Batum, and Babbit 2.0.
- We have the score at will and distribute at will future MVP in Lillard (though his defense could use a little work...but hey - he's a rookie.)
- We have rebounding machines in Aldridge, Hickson, and Batum (he gets almost 6/game if you haven't noticed).
- We have a Western Conference top-2 SF, top-5 PG, top-5 PF, top 8 SG, and top 10 C.
- We have 1 current All-Star, 1 guaranteed future All-Star (Lillard), and 1possible future All-Star in Batum.
- Our bench seems to be improved and ALMOST sufficient. What I mean by that is, though our young core plays WAY too many minutes, when our bench is in, it doesn't seem to be hemorrhaging points the way they did when the year started - despite our schedule getting tougher. (Much thanks to Stotts' magician-like management of our rotation).
I guess what I'm saying is, I don't think this is a fluke. This team seems to get more and more established. We're not lacking in any area except for a couple solid-minute bench players (a nice high-PER bencher or 2 would be HUGE for us) and some experience (which we seem to be obtaining and devouring as the season progresses). Is this success to be attributed to luck? Are we going to come back down to earth soon (as our -2.2 margin is supposed to be indicative of)? Or is this team for real? Can we actually do something special this year with our 8-man rotation of Aldridge, Batum, Matthews, Lillard, Hickson, Babbit, Price, Jeffries? There are a ton of posts about filling all our gaping bench needs, but I feel like they're in response to the October/November Blazers...not the December/January Blazers.