The 2015-16 NBA Season starts in less than two weeks, preseason hoops are in full swing, and playoff prognostications have begun in earnest. Since season previews can get bogged down by team-specific minutiae, and we cover every basketball team, we’re providing our readers reasons why you should care about all 30 teams in the Association.
The 2015-16 Portland Trail Blazers bare little resemblance to the 2014-15 variety. Gone are starters LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum. In their place Portland’s got Meyers Leonard as a stretch five, Ed Davis as LMA, Al-Farouq Aminu in place of Batum, and Gerald Henderson instead of Wes (but really it’ll be C.J. McCollum because Henderson’s hip will prevent him from starting the season and Blazers brass has high hopes for McCollum).
That’s a pretty drastic change, but GM Neil Olshey did a great job rebuilding on the fly instead of trying to patch a contender together when they were a step below the top-tier teams in the West even with LMA and a healthy Wes.
A step below contenders is still a good place to be, especially in the West. A couple injuries, some lucky matchups and all of a sudden you’re holding the Larry O’Brien trophy. We saw the Mavericks do it in 2011 and the Warriors do it last year with a rookie head coach, a scorching backcourt, and the glaring absences of the Clippers and Spurs on their path to the chip.
For any team right below title contender status, you’re positioned to ascend the throne if a preseason favorite falters. Now, apologies to the Dubs, who were just as good as they were lucky, but the Blazers were just as poised before Wesley’s Achilles ruptured, and so imploded the latest version of Rip City.
But this year’s squad should be fun and Olshey put perfect pieces in place to salvage a decent group, but also with an eye toward the future. Despite some offseason maneuvering and the pragmatic way Portland looks to prop up so many departing starters, we’ve got another season of Damian Lillard, the sole remaining starter left and the inheritor of a cushy new max deal. Dame is the man now, which means we get to pick apart his defense — by far the worst part of his game.
There are plenty of reasons to care about this year’s Blazers team, here are just two.