What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Thursday, April 4, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for January and and February: 18. Portland Trailblazers

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of February 28th):  26-31 (fourth place, Northwest Division)  

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of February 28th)

  • Points Scored: 97.0 (17th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.9 (20th)
  • Team FG%: .442 (17th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .467 (28th)
  • Team FT%: .780 (8th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .339 (26th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.5 (19th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.2 (16th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.1 (23rd)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.7 (23rd)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of February 28th)

  • Scoring (ppg): LaMarcus Aldridge (20.8)
  • Rebounds per game:  JJ Hickson (10.4)
  • Minutes per game: Nicolas Batum (38.8)
  • Assists per game: Damian Lillard (6.4)
  • Field Goal Percentage: JJ Hickson (.573)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Damian Lillard (.860)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Wesley Matthews (.391)
  • Steals per game: Wesley Matthews (1.4)
  • Blocked Shots per game: LaMarcus Aldridge (1.2)

Worst Player of the Month:  The bench

Once again the bench continues to be the Achilles Heel of this rather surprisingly impressive Portland Trailblazers team.  As a unit, the eight player that consist of Portland's bench produce as a whole just 32.4 points and 16.6 rebounds per game while just shooting .379 from the field.  With such a disgraceful second unit unit, it is little wonder why the Blazers' starters play so many minutes averaging close to 35.8 minutes per player per game with three of them playing close to 40 on any given occasion.  The front office attempted to shore up their team's rather woeful second unit by acquiring Eric Maynor from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for a 2.2$ million trade exemption.  Unfortunately, the addition of Maynor does not look as much of an improvement as he himself has struggled through much of the season due to lack of playing time and poor production.  With the season coming to a close soon, Portland will certainly have to pay close attention to providing their starters with adequate support or have them continue to wear themselves down leaving themselves more open to injury with each passing game.      
First Player of the Month: LaMarcus Aldridge.

Like a true warrior, LaMarcus Aldridge has stepped up for his team each and every game and literaly been the team's anchor on both the offensive and defensive.  Wheras most players in his situation would have whined and balked demanding to be traded, Aldridge chose to step his game up a notch by providing great leadership to a Blazer team in turmoil.  Much of the Blazers' ability to stay in playoff contention has to do with the effort and leadership that Aldridge has brought onto the basketball court.  He was absolutely phenomenal in the months January and February as he scored in double figures in all but two games scoring 15 or more in all but three of those games.  Such inspired player certainly made him worthy enough in the eyes of the Western Conference's coaches as they selected him once again to represent the west as an All Star reserve.

By the end of the 2012 season, it almost seemed inevitable that the Portland Trailblazers were headed towards rebuilding having fired coach Nate McMillan and cleaning house in the team roster in return for cap space and draft picks.  After hollowing out the roster during the off-season, many expected the Blazers to simply crash and burn allowing themselves to tank the season in order to get a chance at the number one pick in the NBA draft.  No one would have even fathomed Portland having a shot at the playoff this season, let alone any other season for that matter after the team simply collapsed the previous year.  This was supposed to be the season where Portland was supposed to hit rock bottom and start from scratch once again after another disappointing team that failed to reach the NBA Finals yet again and looked as if it was headed nowhere once more.  Now fans would have to swallow another good helping of sorrow one more as they watch their team go from terrible to average back to terrible again.

Fortunately for Blazers fans, however, the season was not nearly as dismal as they had anticipated as their Portland team surprised not only them, but the rest of the league as well.  The Blazers started the season surprisingly respectable at 6-9 and finished 2012 a game over .500 which shocked even the the most optimistic of expectations at the time.  This same Portland team that looked as it was headed for a crash and burn instead bounced right back up from falling so high and looked as if would become one of the surprise feel good stories of the season.  They would have a stunning young player in Damian Lillard who literally come out of nowhere to take over a team which had lost much of its confidence after a collapsing the previous year making him the obvious choice for this season's Rookie of the Year Award.  Add another All Star worthy performance of LaMarcus Aldridge, along with the emergence of swingman Nicolas Batum and impressive comeback performances from JJ Hickson and Wesley Matthews, this Portland team would shock the basketball world and silence any who may have doubted them in the past.

After finishing 2012 on such as good note, the Blazers continued their impressive run into January winning five of their first six games to start off the new year thus giving Portland a 20-15 record which was not too shabby for a team expected to be at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.  Although Portland would stumble slightly losing six in a row falling to 20-21, they did manage to salvage the month of January by winning three of their last four games to finish the month 23-21.  Unfortunately the Blazers did not have the same good fortune as they struggled through the month of February losing nine of their twelve games.  Portland started well enough winning two of their first three games to kick off the month, but soon hit a wall losing seven straight before they stopped the bleeding with a win against the Boston Celtics at home (2/24/2013).  Sadly, however, the momentum from that win was short lived as the Blazers would lose the following game against the Denver Nuggets (2/27/2013) leaving the Blazers reeling from being a team with a slight winning record to one that was five games from .500.

February's downfall may have been a severe shock to the collective system of Portland fans who were hoping for their team to make a strong run for the post season; however, they should not lose all hope.  With a little over a month left in the regular season, there is still time for the Trailblazers to turn things around and be in shape to make a playoff push.  The teams that are currently ahead of them are not the strongest of foes to say the least--both the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets are rather poor defensive teams that turn over the ball easily and often.  Although they may seem to a strong lead coming into the final stretch, their positions are far from being locked in as their inconsistent play and poor defense will eventually catch up with them.  All the Blazers have to do is continue to play hard fight for every game and eventually the gap between them and the last playoff spot will close giving the Blazers a stronger chance of reaching the post season.

Even if they do not make the playoffs, this season should be seen by Blazer fans as a resounding success.  Despite all the internal turmoil and upheaval, the Blazers still managed to put forward a respectable performance with the odds stacked against them.  They have proven that they still have enough to remain a viable contender in the West and come next season they will be in much better shape than they are now with plenty of cap space to attract and acquire the necessary pieces to clock the team's ticket back into the postseason.  Portland already have a solid core of young players to build upon in LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard, JJ Hickson and Nicolas Batum along with a solid prospect with plenty of potential in Meyers Leonard.  What management needs to do now is acquire the talent either by trades or free agents to support this talent group as the team's poor producing bench remains the one thing that holds them back.  Otherwise, there is still plenty left in this team that very few gave any chance whatsoever and regardless of how many times they got knocked down this season, the Portland Trailblazers still manage to stay standing.