Zach Lowe of Grantland.com writes that he believes the Portland Trail Blazers are a 2014 lottery team in his season preview, including the team alongside the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans in a group called "Western Conference Morass."
It's all about defense here, too, and as I've written before, I'm skeptical the Blazers can build a good one this season - even with Robin Lopez onboard, and Terry Stotts installing a more conservative pick-and-roll scheme to fit Lopez's strengths. But like the Mavs and Wolves, the Blazers should make a serious push to rank among the league's half-dozen best offenses. They've got a ton of 3-point shooting around a legit post hub in LaMarcus Aldridge, and Nicolas Batum emerged last season as a very nice secondary ball handler in Stotts's "flow" system. For a 15-game stretch after dealing for Eric Maynor, an actual NBA-level bench player, Portland sported the league's best offense, per NBA.com, before spiraling into a season-ending free fall.
And they have a real bench this season! With real NBA players and everything! C.J. McCollum's broken foot dents that depth a bit, but the Blazers have some talent. Gun to my head, they're in the lottery again, but health and some randomness could take them above Denver, Minnesota, and Dallas.
Six teams -- the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors were included above Portland's tier.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter