FiveThirtyEight used its new CARMELO rating system to assess the Portland Trail Blazers and their growth coming into the new season. CARMELO uses the past performance of similar players to project the future of current ones. By its very nature, the system is highly subjective, and was only recently developed as an NBA version of baseball's PECOTA system.
CARMELO's projection of the Blazers was harsh, suggesting that only Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will be net positive offensive contributors. It was more kind to the defense, even if it rated Lillard as a below replacement level defender.
The system was not high on Meyers Leonard, with writer Benjamin Morris wondering how Leonard could only shoot 32 free throws in a full season despite being a center. Leonard is then compared with LaMarcus Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki, players that shoot from further out, but do not shoot threes as often (or as effectively) as Leonard.
CARMELO may have been even crueler to McCollum. Morris noted that "nothing in his statistical profile screams that he’s going to get a lot better, but he’s young enough that his trajectory is unpredictable." McCollum's strong performance in the preseason and terrific finish to last season when he was pressed into the starting role do not seem to factor as much.
The biggest hit was on Chris Kaman, of which Morris jokes, "...CARMELO expects him to improve slightly in the coming years — pretty much because it can’t fathom a below-replacement player remaining in the league for so long."
CARMELO's overall team projection was surprisingly positive, pegging the Blazers at a 39-43 record for the 2015-16 NBA season.