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ESPN: Portland Trail Blazers Won't Be Bottom Five

Writing for ESPN, Kevin Pelton projects the Blazers slightly better than most.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports's NBA season preview series has gotten around to the Portland Trail BlazersThough the article is on ESPN Insider, analyst Kevin Pelton has several interesting things to say about the new-look Blazers. Among them:

--Portland's new acquisitions are advanced-stats friendly.

--Damian Lillard's extension was the most important move of the summer.

--Lillard approves of Neil Olshey's moves (according to Neil Olshey, via The Oregonian).

--The Blazers are Lillard's team now.

--The Blazers project to score efficiently at the rim and along the right baseline but are below average almost everywhere else.

--ESPN projects 31 wins and a 0,25% chance of making the playoffs.

The conclusion:

Still, don't pencil Portland in among the league's bottom five teams. There's more talent here than the reputations of the Blazers' players might indicate...

Portland's inexperience and limited outside shooting on the wing will probably prevent the team from making a playoff push, but if veteran coach Terry Stotts can find the right combinations to get the most out of the new pieces, the Blazers could remain competitive...

Assuming they're out of the playoff race, the Blazers won't have much incentive to milk every win out of this season, which could limit their total. This year may end up looking like 2012-13, Lillard's rookie campaign, when Portland was 33-36 before losing its final 13 games.

The piece is definitely worth a closer look if you have Insider.