With training camp starting in Cleveland on October 1, Right Down Euclid will be ranking teams from the bottom to the top of the Eastern and Western Conferences. Everyday I will rotate between conferences, starting with the East teams and counting up from No. 16 all the way to the best team in each respective conference.
I will give a quick synopsis of each team’s roster, some of their statistics from last year and why I think they will finish in the position that I predicted. Agree or disagree, stay tuned to RDE to see where your team lands in the 2012 Offseason Team Rankings.
No. 13 – Portland Trail Blazers (5th in Northwest)
2011-12 season: 28-38 (.424), 4th place in Northwest Division (4-10)
Offensive Efficiency: 102.8 (12th)
Defensive Efficiency: 103.7 (22nd)
F-C – LaMarcus Aldridge
F – Luke Babbitt
G – Will Barton
F-G – Nicolas Batum
F-G – Victor Claver
F-C – Joel Freeland
F – J.J. Hickson
F – Jared Jeffries
C – Meyers Leonard
G – Damian Lillard
G – Wesley Matthews
G-F – Aleksandar Pavlovic
G – Ronnie Price
G – Nolan Smith
G – Elliot Williams
I love the direction that the Blazers went with their draft picks, taking point guard Damian Lillard with their first pick and center Meyers Leonard with their second pick. Lillard could be the other starting guard beside Wesley Matthews, as he proved himself as a four-year player at Weber State. He was a proficient shooter, making 46.7 percent of his field goal attempts (15.5 field goals attempted per game), 40.9 percent of his threes and 88.7 percent of his free throws. He’ll eventually be a huge impact player for Portland, but that time is a while off. The same goes for Leonard. The former Illini was much needed on a roster lacking a true center. Marcus Camby was not that effective last season and is also no longer with the team.
With Jamal Crawford (Clippers), Gerald Wallace (Nets) and Raymond Felton (Knicks) all heading off to franchises on the rise, the Trail Blazers lost three of their top six scorers last season. They are losing their best sixth man in Crawford and starters in Wallace and Felton. The starting lineup will have a whole new look to it; a lineup that had the injury bug hit them often in 2011-12. With those veterans mentioned above heading in different directions, the Trail Blazers will struggle a lot more this season with chemistry and will most likely be stricken with some injuries to key players. The bench is pretty thin, especially down low, so one injury to a key player could send this team reeling.
The Trail Blazers won’t be returning to playoff-contending level anytime soon, but there are some bright, young offensive stars that fans could see develop this season. Portland will have a season comparable to that of which the Cavaliers had last season. Playoff contenders before the All-Star break, but lottery hopefuls by the end of the season.