The Portland Trail Blazers are projected to finish 11th in the Western Conference by Ian Thomsen in Sports Illustrated's 2013-14 NBA season preview issue.
The predicted Western Conference standings: 1) Los Angeles Clippers, 2) Oklahoma City Thunder, 3) San Antonio Spurs, 4) Houston Rockets, 5) Golden State Warriors, 6) Los Angeles Lakers, 7) Dallas Mavericks, 8) Minnesota Timberwolves, 9) Memphis Grizzlies, 10) Denver Nuggets, 11) Blazers, 12) New Orleans Pelicans, 13) Sacramento Kings, 14) Utah Jazz, 15) Phoenix Suns.
Every year, the preview issue includes an "Enemy Lines" section made up of thoughts about each team provided by a rival scout. Here's the rival scout's assessment of the Blazers that appears in this week's issue.
Update: Here's a link to the full scouting report. The excerpt below is what appears in the magazine.
You look at their nucleus and say, That's a really exciting young team. But when you did a little deeper, improving that bench had to be a priority. It was historically bad last year. There were guys who would not make most NBA teams. To say LaMarcus Aldridge is your best player -- I don't know. But if you give me two or three guys like him, I'll take my chances. He has the ability to be a major headache in the low post, but he can fall in love with perimeter shots. He could do more on defense; he doesn't have the mind-set that he's going to impact the game that way.
There's a tremendous amount of room for Nicolas Batum to grow. He's still learning as he plays. He's always been able to make three-point shots, and he's so athletic that he can make plays in transition and finish at the rim. What he has developed lately is the ability to come off screens and shoot and also the ability to post guys.
Damian Lillard had a tremendous amount of responsibility thrust on him as a rookie, and he handled it like a veteran. Rarely did he play poorly or seem overmatched or make careless errors. There's no question that the ability to make shots and score is his strength; everything else plays off that. Now he has to improve at breaking down defenses, getting to the rim and getting to the foul line. The one thing you add with Mo Williams and Earl Watson is some veteran presence, which the Blazers had none of last year.
Terry Stotts is very innovative offensively; a lot of what they ran in Dallas were things that he designed.
ESPN's forecast had the Blazers winning 41 games and finishing 10th.
A brief plug: The covers for this year's season preview issue can be viewed here. I have some player-centric pieces in this week's magazine but I didn't write about the Blazers, instead covering teams in the Southwest and Atlantic Divisions.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter