Get used to it: The TrailBlazers are here to stay

With a fourth of the season under our stretchy waistbands enough basketball has been played to see some actual trends. One of them is the fact that Portland might actually maybe be kinda really good.

 

 

Despite being a small market with little nationwide respect, they have star power. Aldridge is a shoo in All-Star averaging nearly 24 and 10 and has had his best games against the league’s best teams. He had 38/10 against OKC, 30/21 at Golden State and 28/10 against Indy, all from the wins mentioned earlier. In any other market he’s a house hold name. I mean, imagine if he was putting up those numbers in New York or Brooklyn. First off those teams wouldn’t be the “laughingstock of the league.”They would be printing his face on taxicabs across the city. Sophomore point guard Damian Lillard would be an All-Star in damn near any other era[1]. He can hit from deep with the best of ‘em and is fearless going to the basket (8th in the league in drives per game according to the NBA’s  SportVu). The only knock on his game is he should be finishing at a higher rate on those drives. His 35% is one of the lowest in the top twenty.

 

 

Despite being a small market with little nationwide respect, they have star power. Aldridge is a shoo in All-Star averaging nearly 24 and 10 and has had his best games against the league’s best teams. He had 38/10 against OKC, 30/21 at Golden State and 28/10 against Indy, all from the wins mentioned earlier. In any other market he’s a house hold name. I mean, imagine if he was putting up those numbers in New York or Brooklyn. First off those teams wouldn’t be the “laughingstock of the league.”They would be printing his face on taxicabs across the city. Sophomore point guard Damian Lillard would be an All-Star in damn near any other era[1]. He can hit from deep with the best of ‘em and is fearless going to the basket (8th in the league in drives per game according to the NBA’s  SportVu). The only knock on his game is he should be finishing at a higher rate on those drives. His 35% is one of the lowest in the top twenty.

They are 15 games above .500 against teams that aren’t the Phoenix Suns (16-3 otherwise) and have quality wins over the Spurs, Pacers, OKC and on the road against GSW. Three of those (four if you’re feeling randy) are top tier championship contenders so it’s not like they’re out there killing the Bucks every night! Even if they go .500 for the rest of the season they would still finish with a record akin to the 6th seed from last year.What the naysayers will claim: The West is incredibly deep and thus any losing stretch, even if it’s small like 2-6 or 3 straight, will drop them into the middle of the pack. More importantly, they lean too heavily on their starters. Other than Washington, they are the only team that plays four players at least 34 minutes per night (Aldridge, Lillard, Batum, Matthews) which seems unsustainable even if all of those guys are young.

Counterpoint: They are a very feasible landing spot for disgruntled Rockets center and defensive stalwart Omer Asik. Defense is definitely where the team’s improvements need to come from. Although they are still somewhere in the middle of the league for a lot of important per-minute defensive stats, historically, that isn’t enough to win a championship. According to the NBA’s Trade Machine C Robin Lopez and rookie SG C.J. McCollum for Asik is a viable trade. McCollum looked like one of the better rookies during summer league play but, again, that’s summer league so you have to take that for what it’s worth. The Rockets might balk on a guy who hasn’t played any NBA minutes. Most likely Houston will hang onto Asik teams start sending desperation offers but I don’t think this is a bad move to make right now today. Robin Lopez isn’t a bad backup center for Dwight. He knows what he’s on the court to do (rebound, play defense, look like Sideshow Bob) and puts all of his focus into those things.

All in all, I’m excited the West has some new blood atop the rankings.


[1] Point guard is so stacked that he might not make it. Parker, Paul, Westbrook, and Curry are much bigger names.

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