2014-15 IN REVIEW
1st in Northwest Division
4th in Western Conference
Lost to MEM (4-1) in Western Conference Quarterfinals
SUMMER OF 2015
Key Additions - Al-Farouq Aminu, Mason Plumlee, Gerald Henderson, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh
Key Losses - LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez
The Trail Blazers experienced a complete roster overhaul this summer, losing out on four of last year's starters and going from a 50-win club to rebuilding through youth. LaMarcus Aldridge left for San Antonio, Wesley Matthews moved on to Dallas and Nicolas Batum was traded to Charlotte while both Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez signed with the Knicks.
Portland made some moves to fill the holes on the depth chart, but the level of talent they have for 2015-16 will be nowhere near where it was before. With that said, they've got some promising new pieces to potentially build with.
In return for Batum, the Hornets sent athletic wing Gerald Henderson Jr. to Portland along with the young and unproven Noah Vonleh. Henderson spent the first six years of his career in Charlotte, averaging an accumulative 12 points per game while Vonleh played just 25 games as a rookie after recovering from a sports hernia. The Haverhill, MA native was the ninth overall pick in 2014 for a reason, however, and he'll get an opportunity to get his career on the right track this year.
Of course, Vonleh will have some quality young bigs to battle for minutes. Aside from Myers Leonard already in place, the Blazers also acquired Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis to the front line. Plumlee performed well in a key role for Brooklyn last season, putting up over eight points and six rebounds per game overall and as a starter in 45 games, he averaged 11.8 points with 7.6 boards in place of the injured Brook Lopez.
Ed Davis is also coming off of the best year as a pro, averaging career highs 8.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Lakers last season. The 26-year-old is an active body, a strong offensive rebounder and a guy you can expect to earn a consistent role in the rotation. Davis will make $20 million over the next three years with Portland.
The Blazers also spent some dough on free agent forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who is an active, long-armed athlete that worked himself into a payday at the right time this summer. Aminu signed a four-year deal worth $30 million, and it looks as though he is going to step into a role as Portland's starting small forward. He's not much of a shooter or shot creator, but he is a defensive presence that impacts winning and always brings energy to the floor.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C - Myers Leonard / Chris Kaman
PF - Mason Plumlee / Ed Davis / Noah Vonleh
SF - Al-Farouq Aminu / Allen Crabbe / Moe Harkless
SG - Gerald Henderson / C.J. McCollum / Pat Connaughton
PG - Damian Lillard / Tim Frazier / Phil Pressey
X-FACTOR - Development of Youth
Unlike the last couple of years, Portland's goal is not to make noise in the playoffs this year. If we're being realistic, there's a strong chance they end up with a top five pick in the draft and really struggle in the basement of the Western Conference.
Damian Lillard will do his thing and if you are a fantasy basketball fanatic, he would probably be a good pick this year. However, he simply doesn't have a competitive team around him and this season is more about the development of the young core than anything else. It will be key for guys like Allen Crabbe, Myers Leonard, C.J. McCollum, Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh to progress, and you can expect Lillard to step up to a new level in terms of leadership.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2015-16
This team is rebuilding, and they are going to go through a lot of growing pains in 2015-16. On the bright side, their young nucleus is made up of hard-working guys that will at the very least be fun to watch compete. This team isn't filled with veteran talent or even a whole lot of depth off the bench, but they've got some pieces to be excited about and Blazers fans have to be prepared to appreciate individual successes more than anything.
4th in Northwest Division
14th in Western Conference
Unlike the Blazers at this time last season, the 2015-16 team has no delusions of competing for a championship. But that doesn't mean this will be a lost year - no, rather, it will simply be a year of experimentation and talent development. Can Leonard shine as a legitimate stretch five in Stotts' system? Can Vonleh show more than he did as a rookie in Charlotte backing up Al Jefferson? Can McCollum go from "bench guy" to "second-leading scorer on an NBA team?" The Blazers have a lot of interesting questions to grapple with, and fortunately, they've got all season to grapple.As for wins and losses, this team might mot be as bad as many of the pundits are predicting. Lillard, McCollum, Leonard and a deep supporting cast may well be enough to win over 30 games. This probably isn't a playoff team, but they are capable of playing competitive basketball well into the 2016 calendar year.