Jeff Caplan and the NBA.com crew give the Portland Trail Blazers a "B" grade for their 2013 offseason.
Lopez and Leonard, in his second season, should secure the paint better than the 6-9 Hickson a year ago, but there's a lot of work to be done here after finishing 29th in field-goal percentage and 26th in defensive efficiency.
Until ending the season on a 13-game slide due largely to injury and exhausted players, the Blazers remarkably were fighting for the final playoff spot in the West. This season comes with an extra dose of hope and will require Lillard to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign. Having better players around him should help.
This is also a critical year in terms of Aldridge's future. The career-Blazer has two years left on his contract and there have been rumblings that he'd like to move on. In his seven seasons he has not advanced beyond the first round. Just making the playoffs this season will be tough in a loaded conference. If he doesn't see real progress, those rumblings will grow louder.
Thanks to SKK in the FanShots.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter