Sean Highkin of Portland Roundball Society offers a midseason report for the 2012-13 Portland Trail Blazers.
Let's be clear about one thing: this team is not good. They're in the thick of the race for the eighth seed in the playoffs right now, but they won't be there at the end of the season. Nothing about what they've been doing is sustainable. The amount of overtime and close regulation games they've won was crying out for regression, and the current six-game losing streak is starting to bear that out. Whatever Terry Stotts insists to the contrary, the fact that three of the Blazers' five starters are averaging at least 38 minutes per game is going to catch up to them, be it in the form of an injury or just general burnout. And when it does, things will get ugly, because they have arguably the worst bench in the NBA. However, even the biggest skeptic about this roster can't deny that the team is a lot better than anyone thought they'd be going into the season, and the things that have made it so are what makes the future of the franchise so promising.
I'll admit that I didn't know a lot about Stotts when he was hired, outside of his less-than-stellar head coaching record with the Hawks and Bucks from several years ago. He seemed like a "safe" hire, without much upside but someone Neil Olshey and Paul Allen could sell to fans as having head coaching experience. He had Rick Carlisle's endorsement, having spent four years as an assistant with the Mavericks, but the choice felt uninspired.
With his first season in Portland at the halfway mark, however, it's clear that Stotts was absolutely the right man for the job. I couldn't be more impressed with what he's gotten out of this roster, both from a basketball standpoint and as an off-court leader. His movement-heavy offense has done wonders in maximizing Nicolas Batum's talents. Stotts deserves Coach of the Year consideration for what he's done with Batum alone. His emphasis on the pick-and-roll has also helped foster great chemistry between Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. And most importantly, he's swiftly won the respect of everyone on the team. After the disastrous end to Nate McMillan's tenure last season, the need for a unified locker room was made plain if the franchise was to recover, and the fact that he's gotten everyone to buy in despite the recent losing streak and other tough stretches earlier in the season speaks volumes.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter