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Thursday, December 6, 2012

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for November: 23. Portland Trailblazers

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of November 30th):  6-9,  fifth place Northwest Division

This Month:
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of November 30th)

Points Scored: 98.4 (14th)
Points Allowed: 101.9 (28th)
Team FG%: .445 (16th)
Opponent’s FG%: .487 (29th)
Rebounds per game: 38.8 (29th)
Opponents rebounds per game: 42.4 (16th)
Turnovers per game: 15.5 (18th)
Opponents turnovers per game: 15.8 (10th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

Worst Player of the Month:  The entire Portland bench

With a second unit consisting of the who’s who of who cares, the Portland Trailblazers have the onerous title of having the worse bench in the NBA.  As a group their second unit has been completely useless thus far only producing just 18.1 points, 12.9 rebounds per game while just shooting a combined .318 from the field.  It is no wonder that the Portland starting five have been playing a bulk of the minutes thus far averaging about 35.6 minutes per game per player—their second unit has been all but nonexistent.  With such a poor bench, heaven forbid if something were to happen to one of their key players and they were to miss a significant amount of time due to injury.  Although the Blazers are currently a respectable 6-8, with such a bad bench, the prospect of them maintaining, let alone improving their standing will remain a pipe dream. rather unfortunate.  
First Player of the Month: Damian Lillard

He raised some eyebrows when he torched the competition during the Summer Leagues and he had an equally impressive performance during the Blazers’ preseason.  Now Damian Lillard, a player that came from the rather small and unnoticed Weber St, has become a proverbial star in the league and a shoe-in for the Rookie of the Year award.  It’s primarily because of Lillard that the Portland Trailblazers have maintained a rather respectable start instead of flaming out as many had predicted.  Forged out of the Derrick Rose/Chris Paul/Deron Williams/John Wall mold, Lillard simply just took the mantle and became the Blazer’s leader in his inaugural season in the league.  Forget about Anthony Davis or any other of those hyped up rookies, the real rookie to watch and the one that will have a dominant impact in the league will be a player that no one ever saw coming.


The Portland Trailblazers were another team that many analysts expected to flame out this season as it spent the entire season hollowing out its roster by either trading away all their veterans or simply letting them go via free agency.  No one would have expected this team whose starting point guard was an unknown rookie from a rather unnoticiable college program would even be able to compete let alone win in an extremely competitive Western Conference.  Those perceptions would soon change, however, when this underrated Blazers team surprising defeated the projected winner of the Western Conference Los Angeles Lakers by a rather impressive margin in its first game (10/31/2012).  Although they stumbled right after that big win by losing five of their next six games, Portland managed to bounce back by winning four of their next five games beating the Sacramento Kings (11/13/2012), Houston Rockets (11/16/2012), Chicago Bulls (11/18/2012) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (11/23/2012).  Unfortunately the Blazers would lose their next four games to finish the month of November, but the 6-9 start has been quite impressive considering that many had this team doomed to be heading into the lottery next year.

Right now Portland rests at the bottom of the Northwest Division with an 8-11 record; however the Blazers are just 1.5 games away from second place and current rests a sole game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.  Granted it is still early in the season and many things can change, but many would have to agree that no one expected Portland to be so competitive so soon.  The flame of the Portland Trailblazers had all but been snuffed out last season as team and its fans prepared for another long hibernation period before their home team becomes a relevant playoff contender once again.  Now that has all change thanks to the inspired play of team leader LaMarcus Aldridge, along with the best career performances thus far from veteran incumbents Wesley Matthews (16.1ppg, 1.8spg) and Nicolas Batum (16.9ppg, 6.0rpg, 3.2apg).  JJ Hickson also went from being a perennial disappointment last season while playing for the Sacramento Kings to becoming a vital contributor to the team’s leading rebounder and as a final touch; Portland has the honor of having a potential Rookie of the Year candidate in Damian Lillard leading the team at the point.

Thus far, the Blazers have started the month December in rather impressive fashion winning two of its first three games beating both the Cleveland Cavaliers (12/1/2012) and the Charlotte Bobcats (12/3/2012) in overtime before falling to the Indiana Pacers by just seven points (12/5/2012).  Despite the small setback, Portland comes into a rather favorable schedule as they will play eight of their next ten games on their home floor and will be facing a rather soft schedule. Only two teams they will be facing have above .500 records—the San Antonio Spurs (12/13/2012) and the Philadelphia 76ers (12/29/2012)—while the rest leave much to be desired.  They will be facing a 4-14 Toronto Raptors squad (12/10/2012), a 5-12 New Orleans Hornets crew (12/16/2012), a 7-14 Phoenix Suns (12/22/2012) and a 5-12 Sacramento Kings team not just once, or twice, but three times (12/8, 12/23, 12/26).  Other than the Spurs and the Sixers, the best team that Portland will have to face is an underwhelming Denver Nuggets team whom are currently hovering just under the .500 mark with a record of 9-10 (12/20/2012) and a Los Angeles Lakers team whom they have already beaten (12/28/2012) giving Portland a chance to make major dent into the season.

Portland certainly has a chance to take at best eight of those games and worst case scenario split them 5-5, but all of that is highly dependent on the team’s effort on the defensive end which has been quite poor to say the least.  The Blazers currently rank amongst the worst defensive teams in the NBA in terms points and field goals percentage allowed and have so far allowed their opponents to outshoot and outrebound them by rather wide margins.  They are an average shooting team at best with the team’s field goal percentage hovering just under .450 from the field, but also a horrible rebounding team with the second worst per game average in the league.  Add the fact that Portland has allowed their opponent to shoot close to .500 against them and out-rebound them by a +4 margin; the Blazers’ chances of having a winning record by the end of 2012 are slim at best.   Their bench is nothing to brag home about either as Portland probably has the worst producing second unit in the league and couple that with their poor performance on the defensive end and the board, the Blazers’ flame will be completely extinguished halfway into the season.

Fortunately for Blazers fans, it is still early in the season so their team can still improve their performance on the defensive end and on the glass before April arrives; however, if Portland continues to allow their opponents to outshoot and out-rebound them as they have done this past month, there will not be no “trail-blazing” of any kind.  From what can be seen from their schedule thus far, Portland seems to fare better when they hold their opponents to less than 100 points as they are 4-5 when hold teams to 100 compared to 4-6 when they allow their opponents to score more than 100.  They should keep that in mind when they head into December against the winnable games ahead of them as this month can either make or break this team.  By the end of December, it will be easier to determine whether or not the Blazers have a chance at making it to the postseason and all their hopes and aspiration are solely dependent on one single letter—the letter “D.”