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Portland Trail Blazers 2014-15 Season Preview: Predicting Portland's X-Factor

The merry band of authors at Blazer's Edge quarrel over the team's X-Factor for the upcoming season.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

X-Factor can mean many things: the glue guy, a role player, Mr. Blue Collar, the hot scorer who can turn defeat into victory in the blink of an eye. Here's who the Blazer's Edge staff tabs as the X-Factor for the 2014-15 season. What do you think?

Who's this year's X-Factor?


I'm going to ignore the starters for this question. I think it's clear that if we lose a starter, we're in trouble. From the bench, I'd like to say Chris Kaman... but Joel Freeland did a great job as backup big last season, and he looked better this year. So Steve Blake is our X-Factor. If Damian is out (due to foul trouble, injury, whatever), Steve it is. We need him healthy and able to run an offense that is normally built around Lillard's strengths. While I wasn't Mo Williams' biggest fan, he had some similarities to Damian and could cover for him in short doses. He was also reasonably healthy until the playoffs. We need a healthy and effective Steve Blake; otherwise we are relying on the untested young guys.


Sam Tongue@SamTongue

Nicolas Batum. Sorry if I'm being Captain Obvious in this series of predictions, but the reality is without a solid season from Batum this team will struggle. Aldridge and Lillard can carry them offensively, but Batum can be both a terrific defender and playmaker in transition (both ways, that is). Batum managed to impact the game more and more without his scoring last year -- he'll need to keep improving this year.


Evans Clinchy@evansclinchy

Damian Lillard. The West is extremely competitive, and it's difficult to break into the top tier. If Portland is to have any chance of doing so, it'll be because Dame turns into an absolute superduperhypermegastar in year three. That's a lot of pressure for a 24-year-old kid, but he's brought this on himself with his stellar first two seasons.


Scott Horlbeck@scott_horlbeck

Everyone besides Damian and LaMarcus. You know what you're getting from these two, but can the other three make a difference.


Willy Raedy

Coach Terry Stotts. For the first time it looks like Stotts might have some rotation options, especially at the forward spots. How he mixes in the diverse skill sets of Barton, Wright, Leonard, and Robinson could have a major impact on our ability to handle specific matchups and respond to injury.


Ryan A. Chase

CJ McCollum. He is healthy, has a season of learning under his belt, and will now be called upon to help replace the bench scoring of Mo Williams. He is a lights-out shooter. His defense is improving so that while he is not a top tier defender, he is no longer a defensive liability. There is a reason teams are sniffing around to see if Neil Olshey is willing to move him. While some are entranced by the high-flying acrobatics of Will Barton, McCollum's consistent 3-point shooting will carry the bench.


Chris Lucia@ChrisLucia_BE

Isn't Nic Batum the epitome of an X-factor? He does a little bit of everything and has games that are seemingly quiet, then you check the box score and see something ridiculous like a 5x5 stat line. He can also come alive on either end of the court at any given time, carrying the team in spurts. Honorable mention to Wesley Matthews here.

Sagar Trika@BlazersBySagar

The Blazers' weakest position on the bench is undoubtedly the small forward position. Dorell Wright and Victor Claver didn't play well enough last season to hold their own against other back up forwards around the league. I think if Wright produces numbers similar to what he did in Golden State, he will prove to be a formidable floor-spacer. In other words, defenders will be forced to defend Wright on the perimeter, allowing guards like CJ McCollum and Will Barton to drive down the lane. Dorell Wright needs to step up.

Well, well, well...we have quite the battle for definition going on here. Solve it for us. Who's Portland's X-Factor and why?

One more preview post to come...