As part of their Pro Basketball Talk series, NBC Sports will ask 51 questions in the 51 days before the start of the 2015-2016 season. Their first question is: Which Team Takes Biggest Step Back This Season?
We often hear "Two out of three ain't bad" in connection with sports stories, but with a question like this, it ain't just bad, it's very bad. Two out of three NBC writers believe the Trail Blazers will take the biggest step back this year.
Kurt Helin: Portland Trail Blazers
Portland is the clear and obvious choice — they lost or traded LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Nicolas Batum. That’s four starters out the door (plus guys like Arron Afflalo), and the guys they brought in are not of the same quality — many are not good jump shooters. When Aldridge chose to take his talents to San Antonio, the Blazers wisely decided to rebuild — and it’s a lot easier to rebuild when you start with a piece like Damian Lillard. But it’s going to be a process, at times a painful one. What they do offensively now must change — they loved the pick-and-pop with Aldridge, but now their big guys can’t shoot with range, so they are going to roll and that will draw defenders into the paint, meaning things will get clogged. It’s going to be a rough season in Portland.
Kurt also suggests that the Atlanta Hawks may fall as far as Portland.
Dan Feldman: Portland Trail Blazers
Portland — largely by design, once LaMarcus Aldridge left — has chosen to take a step back. And it should be a large step. The Trail Blazers SLUMPED to a 51-31 finish last season. When everyone was healthy, they at least belonged in the championship-contender conversation. Now, it'd be a minor miracle if they won 51 games, let alone seriously enter the playoff race. They let Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo walk in free agency, and they traded Nicolas Batum. That's just too much attrition from a team that values continuity, especially when the replacements are so young and unproven. I like what the Trail Blazers are doing. I just don't expect them to win much this season.
And the last answer, but perhaps a better one (If you're a Blazer fanatic):
Sean Highkin: Boston Celtics
Boston was the surprise of the second half of last season, going 20-11 after the All-Star break and sneaking into the playoffs as the seventh seed. It's to Brad Stevens' enormous credit that this roster of mostly spare parts played as well as it did down the stretch. And none of the moves they made this summer were bad, per se — it's just hard to see where they got definitively better, at least to the point where they can definitely be penciled in as a definite playoff team. . . .
You can read more of their words at the above link. If you disagree, help us find a team that will take a bigger step back this season.