This is Part 1 of a 5-part series reviewing the first quarter of Portland's season.
When it became clear that Greg Oden was never going to wear a Blazers jersey again, I left Blazers Edge. I needed to step away. I’d spent too much time thinking about and analyzing a team that had caused me so much pain. I’ll never forget when Greg went down like a sack of rocks against Houston, after a stretch of play that validated my hopes for the team’s future; on my 21st birthday, no less. That was a rough night.
Since my time away, I’ve still followed the team closely, but I got away from an over-analysis of every game, player, trade and draft-day scenario. Stepping baclowed me to evaluate my fandom and establish, for lack of a better word, boundaries. It has allowed me to enjoy the team more thoroughly without dismissing reality. I’ve always tried to be relatively objective, but in my younger years, that hindered my ability to enjoy the game. Seeing as that’s no longer the case, I figured I could safely return to Blazers Edge.
The motivation for this 4-part post, which will be a high-level, stats-driven review of the season so far and include some predictive analysis, is my group of “Blazer friends.” I’m sure you know what I mean when I say “Blazer friends.” Since leaving Blazers Edge, I had to talk about the franchise with somebody, so I began getting into more in depth conversations with a variety of friends. Over time, I came to realize all of the things I took for granted being a part of this community, like a basic understanding of the realities of the NBA.
After countless conversations with members of my Blazer friend-group regarding the direction of this team, I was surprised by those who were calling me a “hater.” Now, aside from the fact that whenever someone uses the term “hater” I question the educational opportunities afforded them as children, it became clear that my perspective of the franchise was not well-received by all. Some were on board, but others actually questioned my fandom. Without getting into specifics, I’ve basically contested for 2+ years that:
1) The Blazers don’t currently have a superstar player on the roster
2) Given the last 35 years of NBA history, it’s clear that barring extraordinary circumstances, you need AT LEAST one superstar on your roster to win an NBA championship
3) I want to see the Blazers win an NBA championship
4) The only realistic way that Portland is acquiring a superstar is through the draft
5) The 2014 draft is going to be insane, and probably gives us our best chance at landing said superstar
You can fill in the blanks. I’m sure the win now vs. rebuild discussion was had on this site ad nauseam. The merits of either aside, I wanted to see the Blazers attempt to rebuild through the draft. Fueling this desire was my belief that Portland could not construct a team around Aldridge that could reasonably compete for a title. Whether or not I still believe that is for part 5.
Now that you have some background, here’s how I’m breaking down the series:
Part 1 – The Introduction
Part 2 – The Starters
Part 3 – The Bench
Part 4 – The Team
Part 5 – The Future
Each section will use a series of statistics I found particularly informative to support any conclusions made. While stats never tell the whole story, they do a great job of evaluating player and team performance when looked at holistically. Not every player or team stat will be listed, but that’s just because it would cause clutter. When drawing conclusions, I looked at raw, per-game and advanced stats over multiple years and have chosen to include what I feel is relevant. Hopefully, that allows for concise analysis that’s easily digested.
This series is not intended to be a comprehensive statistical overview, but rather a high-level look at what stats I feel are most relevant to analyzing performance. I don’t claim to have infallible insight, so feel free disagree with my conclusions. Ultimately, I’m only attempting to see what kind of picture the numbers are painting, and my interpretation may well be different from yours.