The Trail Blazers launch their 2015-16 campaign on Wednesday night at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. Blazer's Edge will bring you season preview coverage over the next couple days, but for now, here's a look at how basketball writers around the internet think the Blazers will fare in 2015-16.
Nylon Calculus' Nathan Walker developed his own formula using advanced statistics from players in previous years to predict how they will impact their teams going forward. He forecasts that Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will take another leap this season in terms of production:
...Yes, Wes Matthews was good. LaMarcus Aldridge was very good – and I’m not sure my Box Plus-Minus projections entirely capture how much he contributed to Lillard’s rating. But one thing is for sure – Lillard is a high-usage point guard who both puts up stats and doesn’t have a bad defensive +/-.
To this end, my projections see him taking a 2015-Russell Westbrook type role this year: doing it all and filling a big void.
Dan Favale from Bleacher Report isn't so high on the Blazers, predicting a 22-60 record in Portland this year:
Success and failure will be measured by whether the Blazers have an actual core in place. Stotts will experiment. There will be different starting lineups and shifting second units. The Blazers, in all likelihood, will make some midseason changes once they have a better idea of what works.
In doing that, Portland will forfeit its ability to do much of anything. This team will not be the second coming of the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns, throwing the West for a loop by sniffing the postseason. The Northwest Division crown will go back to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Portland will be left looking up at the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and, yes, Minnesota Timberwolves.These Blazers will be exactly who they were built to be: a marginally competitive basketball team dedicated to finding out which of its current players are worth keeping around.
The Blazers won’t be the worst team in the West, but a playoff spot is pretty much out of the question. They have one of the best young point guards in the league in Damian Lillard, but he can’t be expected to do it all. It’s time to rebuild in Portland.
Last season, Lillard was one of the busiest players in the league. He ranked fourth in the league with 1,360 shots attempted and was tied for eighth in minutes per game with 35.4. He also averaged a 4.2-mile radius of distance covered per game, tied for second.
Ball Don't Lie's Eric Freeman predicts the Blazers will win 27 games and find themselves somewhere in between a top lottery pick in the West and the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, with Ed Davis stepping up his role this year:
Go-to offseason acquisition:
Olshey's offseason approach seemed to be not to put too much pressure on any one acquisition, so it's hard to say any one guy fits in this spot. Nevertheless, Davis projects as the new player most likely to establish himself as a dependable weapon. The 26-year-old Davis has played for three teams in just five seasons and has never averaged more than the 24.6 minutes per game he logged with the Toronto Raptors as a rookie. However, he put up terrific numbers for the Lakers last season — 12.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes (he averaged 23.3) with a 20.0 PER. Davis figures to get every opportunity to prove himself to Stotts and the rest of the staff. We will have to see if he can match that production over more playing time.
Jack Winter and Spencer Lund from Dime Mag would like to see Lillard step up his defensive game this season:
... [Lillard] is going to have to figure out a way to improve on the defensive end of the floor. We’re getting precariously close to James Harden circa 2013 levels and while Blazers fans will never forget his series-clinching game-winner over the Rockets in 2014, they should also be pretty tired of how out of position Lillard can look on the screen-and-roll.
In fact, simple on/off numbers reveal a lot. Last year’s Blazers gave up only 97.5 points per 100 possessions when Lillard was on the bench. That would have been the best defense in the league last year. But when he was on the court, that defensive rating ascended to 102.7, good for about middle of the pack in the league.
Like we said, Dame isn’t awful, but he’s got to be better if he’s going to be Portland’s real leader. It starts on the pick-and-roll and the sloppy way Dame defends the high screen, specifically when he goes under it, or the offensive player tricks him by going away from the pick.
Stay tuned for Trail Blazers 2015-16 season preview coverage from Blazer's Edge coming this week!
-- Chris Lucia | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter