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2013-14 Blazers: What do the numbers project?

Plenty has been written recently about the crystal ball approach to next season. Dave just had an excellent write up that shed some light on how easily we tend to overvalue our potential and also overstate our opponents’ demise. So how good can we be? A team is the sum of its individual parts. So I broke down what the stats of each individual Blazer per minute was in 2012, along with our acquisitions and dumped all the info into a spreadsheet to find out what we can expect. This is one of the more flawed approaches to projections as it ignores several key components, but for kicks and giggles, here we go…. (NOTE: McCollum and Crabbe are rookies, so for the purpose of this exercise they are completely excluded).

So for the record, here was our per game performance in 2012-2013:

97.5 ppg (#14 in the league), 40.8 rebounds (#24), 21.8 assists (#18), 6.6 steals (#28), 4.3 blocks (#26), 14.2 turnovers (#19)

Summary: Basically top half of league in scoring, barely, but everything else was not good. Especially in defense/rebounding categories.

Experiment #1: Next step was to add in our new acquisitions and adjust their performance according to games played and minutes played LAST YEAR: I gave Robin Lopez the minutes of Hickson, gave Mo Williams the minutes of Meyers Leonard, Dorell Wright the minutes of Eric Maynor, and Thomas Robinson the minutes of Babbit. Not a single second longer. Leonard got bumped down and took the minutes of Freeland. What was the result?

100.3 ppg (#7 in the league), 37.2 rebounds (#30), 22.7 assists (#13), 6.7 steals (#28), 5.4 blocks (#9), 14.9 turnovers (#29)

This starts to reflect what we all know- our bench was dismal last year!! Even with some low minute quality additions this team can light up the scoreboard. Ball movement improved and rim protection took a giant leap—another aspect that Olshey has discussed at length. And that’s with the new players playing low minutes and the same wear and tear on our starters. My concern about stat trends? Turnovers are bad and rebounds are even worse. So experiment #2: No injuries and no monster minutes for our best players. Take a look:

9551293550_7627690e2a_medium

This team has the personnel to light people up offensively. 102.8 ppg (would have been #6 last year) and 24.5 assists (#2 last year). Even defensively this isn’t a terrible group individually with Batum, Matthews, Lopez, and Aldridge. Last year they would’ve ranked #8 in blocks as well. BUT: especially disconcerting is the rebounding. 37.6 reb per game would have been dead last in the league last year, a drop off from our poor showing last year. Without rebounds, doubtful you see those type of offensive games you’d love to see. You’re going to give up a lot of second chance points and lose opportunities for second chance points yourself.

So let’s get on to a realistic experiment #2. No team is injury free for an entire season. So I took Golden State’s roster from last year, took their minutes and games played and distributed them to our players. Not fair, but neither is life. Watch what happens:

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This is the danger of relying on an offensive team. While it still would have ranked 10th last year, you begin to worry if you have enough defense to cover for the loss of firepower through the year. Especially because Lopez is the one nicked up in this scenario. Still a better team than last year, but still lacking defense and now also lacking rebounding.

But now onto an interesting experiment #3: acarnes recently published his article on Robin Lopez and his positive impact on team rebounding. We also have the addition of Robinson and well publicized efforts of his to become an outstanding rebounder (if he’s not already there). We also have two SF’s who are more than capable of jumping in and getting more rebounds. So let’s say we increase Robinson’s minutes, and also increase the rebound production of Batum, Wright, and Robinson by 1 reb/36min (highly unlikely, but necessary to duplicate as a team). I also promise not to maim Robin Lopez for more than a couple games. What happens to our team?

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Last year, this team would have been #7 in points, #24 in rebounds, #5 in assists, #28 in steals, #8 in blocks, and #23 in turnovers. Sound okay? Well, last year the Dallas Mavericks were #8 in points, #16 in rebounds, #5 in assists, #16 in steals, #8 in blocks and #8 in turnovers—and they didn’t make the playoffs because of their pathetically inept defense. My conclusions?

While this type of analysis is mediocre at best, as it completely ignores the fit and function of a team and assumes ENTIRELY that an individuals’ statistics will remain static when moving from team to team, it was helpful to understand a few key things:

1. This team needs to focus on rebounding heavily this year. Because if the sum of its’ parts remains status quo, it will be a miserable year to watch the boards. Key components of this aspect: Lopez and Robinson.

2. Defense needs to get fixed. Quickly. Before the season even starts. Dallas was lighting people up last year but couldn’t stop a toddler with a nerf ball. This team could easily become the 2013 Mavericks version 2 if not careful. Lillard MUST improve, Lopez MUST make a difference, and the second team better not turn into a large block of swiss cheese.

3. This team needs to develop their talent. Growth is expected and likely from Lillard. I would also say growth is likely from Robinson, just with less expectations. With that and other players' growth, the needs for defense/rebounding will be filled from within. Otherwise, new personnel will be required to fill the void.

[If anyone has a request for what the team would look like under this ridiculous method, let me know minutes below and I'll kick it out]

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