Analyzing the Surprise Teams Part V: Portland Trail Blazers

The fifth and final part of this series will take a look at a team that has received a lot of media attention this season, the Portland Trail Blazers. A lot of big things have been predicted for this team in the future (more on this later), but they’re probably already a lot better than most people were expecting. Thanks to the injury bug hitting the Jazz hard, the Blazers (along with the Nuggets) have a legitimate shot at winning the Northwest Division.

This year’s version of the Blazers is all about offense. They score 113.6 points per 100 possessions, which ranks them second in the NBA in offensive efficiency. Unfortunately, their defense is towards the bottom, ranking 24th. This weakness will ultimately be their downfall if they don’t get it fixed, but so far it hasn’t stopped them from winning games.

Looking at the Offensive Four Factors, the Blazers do very well in each category except for drawing fouls. Their specialty is grabbing offensive rebounds. Portland gets rebounds on a staggering 33% of their misses, a number that leads the NBA. Not surprisingly, the one thing they do well on defense is also rebounding. They have some big men that are great rebounders and are a generally long team.

As expected, Brandon Roy leads Portland. Roy’s had some monster scoring games (including recently against Phoenix) and has a PER of 24.7. More importantly, he’s an efficient scorer, making him the biggest reason the Blazers are the second best offensive team in the NBA. However, as great of an all-around player as he is, I would still put him a notch below Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

The Blazers aren’t a one-man show, though. LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid young player who just needs a higher shooting percentage to become a true star. Right now his true shot percentage is just 50.0%. I’m a big fan of their centers. Greg Oden’s offensive struggles have been well documented, but he’s a rebounding machine and a defensive force. However, at this moment, I wouldn’t call him any better than his backup, someone I consider one of the more underrated players in the league. Joel Przybilla provides the same things as Oden, although his rebounding is even better. It’s too bad they’re both so big, because I wonder how the two playing alongside each other would look. I don’t think teams would score a point in the paint all game long.

Looking at the short term, the Blazers are a definite playoff team. There are too many good teams in the Western Conference (most notably the Lakers) for them to be thinking championship, though. As for championships in the future, it all depends on their ability to develop a defensive mentality. They’ve already accomplished the hardest part by getting a dominant big man to anchor the middle. If Aldridge could approach Oden’s level, their defense would improve astronomically. If I were a Blazers coach, I would tell Aldridge to focus on defense more than anything else.

The Blazers have enough role players who don’t have to worry about offense and can give 100% effort on D. Just like everyone says, the potential is there for Portland. It all comes down to the way this team develops.

Information from the KnickerBlogger.Net stats page was used in this report.

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Chicago at Atlanta: Hawks
Oklahoma City at Washington: Wizards
New Jersey at Charlotte: Nets
Orlando at Minnesota: Magic
Utah at Houston: Rockets
Detroit at Milwaukee: Bucks
Memphis at San Antonio: Spurs
Toronto at Portland: Trail Blazers

Prediction Record: 257-117

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