Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider) has released his 2013-14 forecast for the Portland Trail Blazers, including the projection from his SCHOENE system.
Since the Blazers have little choice but to try to win now because of [LaMarcus] Aldridge's contract, they would have loved for the rest of the conference to race to the bottom in anticipation of the 2014 draft. Instead, teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Pelicans also made the playoffs a priority. Suddenly, there are at least 11 and maybe 12 teams -- depending on your view of the Los Angeles Lakers -- competing for eight playoff spots.
SCHOENE sees Portland right in the middle of that race as one of five teams projected to have between 40 and 44 wins. With margins so thin, injuries and luck could play a major role in determining which teams get a chance to host two playoff games and which head to the lottery. For the Blazers in particular, the evolution of their defense is probably key. SCHOENE projects the offense improving into the league's top 10 but the defense getting little better. If Stotts can turn around the defense with Lopez as an interior anchor and a more experienced Leonard, this could easily be a 45-win team.
Projected Offensive Rating: 110.3 (7th)
Projected Defensive Rating: 109.1 (24th)
Effective (weighted) age: 26.1 (22nd)
SCHOENE Projection: 41-41, 4th in Northwest, T-10th in Western Conf.
Last year, SCHOENE projected 32 wins for the Blazers, one off their 33-win mark.
PS I spent all week cracking on KP2 for this, from Peter Botte of the New York Daily News...
[Carmelo] Anthony laughed off an ESPN computer simulation from earlier this week that predicted the Knicks will win 37 games this season - which would amount to a 17-win slip from last season's Atlantic Division-winning 54-28 record.
"I don't follow that stuff, I don't pay attention to it," Anthony said. "Sometimes there's glitches in the computer, that's all I can say."
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter