The good folks at SB Nation's NBA site are previewing the 2012-13 Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.
Here's Tom Ziller's preview, which predicts the Blazers will finish 5th in the Northwest Division and No. 12 in the West.
Keep in mind that even though they didn't "tank" until March, Portland still ended up No. 11 in the West. The West is good. Denver and Utah made the playoffs last season and got better. The Warriors are, in theory at least, better. If Minnesota can find the source of the curse following the team, it will be better. Portland did not get better as compared to the beginning of last season.
Portland looks like one of those teams that can be competitive against anyone ... if things are clicking, the shots are dropping and the opposing offense has trouble shooting. Portland's defense is going to be mediocre, though, and the offense will top out at average (at best). That's not a recipe for good times.
Add some seasoning for Lillard and Leonard, maybe a breakout season for Luke Babbitt and another draft pick or acquisition, and the Blazers could be back in the playoff bracket in a couple years. But I think this team is maintaining low altitude for at least another season.
Mike Prada gives the Blazers a "C" for their offseason, in part for the fact that they chose not to sign-and-trade Nicolas Batum to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Minnesota Timberwolves wanted Batum badly and were willing to go even higher than the contract they offered him. When the Blazers made public statements that they wanted to keep Batum, the Timberwolves began talking about a potential sign-and-trade where they would dangle Derrick Williams and future first-round picks. If the Blazers had continued negotiating, they could have easily received at least two excellent future assets, significantly improved their cap situation and put their rebuild on a simpler track. Instead, they let their own pride get in the way, refusing to negotiate with the Timberwolves because of bad blood from a previous deal two years ago.
That strikes me as cutting off their nose to spite their face. At the end of the day, the Blazers could have kickstarted their desperately-needed rebuild with some combination of LaMarcus Aldridge,Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Derrick Williams, at least one additional first-round pick that wasn't their own and loads of cap space. Batum is a good player that may grow into a better player, but choosing to pay him nearly $12 million a season over that collection of future assets strikes me as a poor decision.
More importantly: it seems like a decision that was made for the wrong reasons. I'd be less critical of the re-signing if it was done purely for basketball reasons.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter