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NBA 2016-17 Team Previews -Portland Trail Blazers: It’s Dame Time

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Jan 29, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and guard C.J. McCollum (3) look on against the Charlotte Hornets during the fourth quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and guard C.J. McCollum (3) look on against the Charlotte Hornets during the fourth quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
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Jan 29, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and guard C.J. McCollum (3) look on against the Charlotte Hornets during the fourth quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and guard C.J. McCollum (3) look on against the Charlotte Hornets during the fourth quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 29, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and guard C.J. McCollum (3) look on against the Charlotte Hornets during the fourth quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

NBA 2016-17 Team Previews – Portland Trail Blazers:  Last season’s Cinderella team prepares to take the next step.

To prepare our readers for the regular season SCS provides our NBA 2016-17 Team Previews.  Who will return to the playoffs? Which team will fall from grace and who will be the Cinderella team?

Get a complete break down of each team. Included in the profiles are:

  • Where the team finished 2015-16
  • Key 2015-16 stats
  • Future draft pick status
  • Current and future salary rank
  • Off Season Moves
  • 2017 Free Agents
  • Schedule, NBA League Pass and Win Projection Ranking
  • Team Overview entering season (Starting 5, reserves and notable injuries)
  • When each team will play the Houston Rockets
  • Strengths, Weaknesses and Prediction

NBA 2016-17 Team Previews now looks at arguably the toughest division – the Northwest.

Next up is last year’s Cinderella Team the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland Trail Blazers:

Oct 19, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts reacts during the second half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Trail Blazers won 88-84. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 Record: 44 – 38

Playoffs:

Missed playoffs, finished 5th in Western Conference

Points Per Game: 105.1 (6th )

Opponent Points Per Game:  104.3 (20th)

Pace: 96.0 (13th )

Offensive Rank: 108.8 (6th )

Defensive Rank:  108.0 (20th)

Three Point Rank:  37.0% (4th)

Rebounds: 45.5  (5th)

Assists: 21.3 (21st)

Steals: 6.9 (25th)

Blocks: 4.6 (18th)

Turnovers: 14.6 (17th)

Next: Future postioning - draft, free agents

October 21, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) dribbles the ball against Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Free Agents

Restricted:

Future Draft Picks

See Real GM for full details:

Incoming:

  • 2018 first round draft pick from Cleveland
  • 2019 second round draft pick from L.A. Lakers or Minnesota (more favorable)
  • 2021 second round draft pick from Miami

Outgoing:

  • 2017 second round draft pick to Houston
  • 2018 second round draft pick to Sacramento (swap, SAC incoming)
  • 2019 second round draft pick to Orlando
  • 2020 second round draft pick to Cleveland

Average Age of Team: 25.0 years

Next: Off Season Moves

Oct 19, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner (1) dribbles the ball as Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey (24) defends during the first half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks

Round 1: N/A

Round 2: Jake Layman (47)

2016 Free Agents prior to July 1, 2016:

Restricted:

Unrestricted:

  • Gerald Henderson
  • Chris Kaman
  • Brian Roberts

Moves made following July 1, 2016:

Incoming:

Exiting:

Re-upping:

October 21, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) dribbles the ball against Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas over-under for wins: 46.5

Schedule strength:

As ranked by ESPN: 27th with 2.85 extra wins

 The Blazers must deal with the reality of being isolated as the only team in the Pacific Northwest. (There used to be three!) Portland is slated for the fewest plane trips (56, tied with the Lakers) but projects to log a league-high 56,655 miles in the air.

Games versus Rockets:

  • Thursday November 17th in Houston at Toyota Center at 8PM EST
  • Sunday November 27th at Moda Center, in Portland, Oregon, 9PM EST
  • Thursday March 30th at Moda Center, in Portland, Oregon, 10:30PM EST

Zach Lowe NBA League Pass Rank: 9th

The Blazers are a younger, more vibrant version of Dallas on offense, which makes sense, given the imprint Terry Stotts left in Dallas before taking the head job in Portland. They work the elbows, shift the ball side-to-side, and set more off-ball screens than anyone in the league. They keep all five guys involved, and make all five defenders run. They got faster and more versatile when Al-Farouq Aminu bumped up to power forward, and they will start a version of that lineup from jump street this season.

When the fancy motion doesn’t work, they just give the ball to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Lillard is cold-blooded shooter who lives for late-game drama. McCollum is a jitterbug with a Hermione-deep bag of finishes from all ranges.

Next: Team Overview

Mar 1, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) celebrates with guard Damian Lillard (0) against the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Trail Blazers defeated the Knicks 104-85. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Committed Salary

2016: $119,595,973 –2nd ranked, after signing of free agents and extending McCollum the Blazers are all in.

2017: $126,171,565 – 1st ranked

Team Salary Ranking as per Hoops Hype, and team salary overview also via Hoops Hype

Starting 5:

Point Guard:  Damian Lillard – 25.1 points, 6.8  assists,  4.0 rebounds

Shooting Guard:  CJ McCollum 20.8 points, 4.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds

Small Forward: Al Farouq Aminu – 10.2 points, 1.7 assists,  6.1 rebounds

Power Forward:  Ed Davis – 6.5 points,  7.4 rebounds,  1.1 assists

Center:  Mason Plumlee – 9.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists

Reserves:

Guards: Shabazz Napier, Evan Turner

Wings: Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless, Pat Connaughton, Tim Quarterman

Bigs:  Festus Ezeli, Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh, Jake Layman

Injury News:

  • Ezeli continues to rehab the knee, participating in limited practice sessions, doubtful for opening night
  • Napier has a tweaked ankle which kept him out of the Blazers final preseason game

All injury news as per rotoworld

Next: Strengths, Weaknesses, Prediction

 

Oct 19, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts reacts during the first half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

 

Strengths:

  • Dame Lillard is a superstar who has yet to receive the accolades he deserves like making an All-Star team. Were he playing in the East he’d likely have been on a couple of teams already
  • The combination of Lillard and McCollum are so lethal they are one of two backcourts who gave the Warriors fits last season (Toronto Raptors were the other).
  • In fact the strongest asset the Blazers have is their guards. The question is where free agent acquisition fits int he mix given he requires the ball in his hand to be successful.  Surely Stotts can’t use him with CJ and Dame because they also need the ball in their hands.
  • Terry Stotts did an incredible job with the team in a season where every pundit expecting the team to take a nose dive.
  • If Ezeli can stay on the court he offers a solution to the highly over rated Plumlee

Weaknesses:

  • The Blazers haven’t reached the level of the Spurs or Rick Carlisle where it’s difficult to bet against them, but one more season of consistency and they might. To that end, staying healthy will be an issue as Leonard is just returning from an injury riddled season and Ezeli is still recovering from his knee injury.
  • Noah Vonleh was a player I was super high on coming out of college, but he’s never lived up to expectations. Can this be the year he finally showcases some growth?
  • The front court is a big issue for the Blazers, especially if Ezeli can’t stay healthy. With the Blazers  spent close to $300 million dollars this summer via retention deals for Crabbe and Harkless, free agent signings of Ezeli and Turner as well as the extension contract to McCollum. This resulted in the Blazers having the second highest payroll in the league. If the team were to take a step back that could be a real problem for GM Neil Olshey.
  • As per above, Plumlee will be entering free agency this summer and remains (in my opinion) one of the most over rated players in the NBA.  The Blazers can’t afford another big contract unless they want to enter luxury tax, so the team needs to figure out the front court quickly.

More from Space City Scoop

Prediction:

In case the Association hasn’t figured it out yet, Damian Lillard has no comprehension of the word “can’t”.

This team was the feel good story of 2015-16 and I’m anxious to see whether they can repeat their efforts of last season now that every team will be expecting them to produce. Barring injury I see the Blazers back in the playoff mix, but having said that I sense a step back for this team (without a healthy Ezeli) as teams chose to force Lillard and McCollum into drives.

Best case the Blazers take the 4th seed, worse case they fall to one of the lower ladder seeds.

FanSided Affiliate Site: Rip City Project

Next: Cleveland Cavaliers Team Preview

 

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