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NBA Team Previews: #14 Portland Trail-Blazers

14) Portland Trail-Blazers 33-49 in the 2012-2013 season. 11th in the West. 4th in the Northwest.

Last year's Rookie of the Year will now face his next test...his second year. The Blazers were doing quite well in the regular season until they fell flat at the end, losing their last 13 games in a row. The Blazers made some moves in the offseason to try and make their team a playoff contender, but a lot of those expectations will be on LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard to repeat their years last year and stave off injuries. It might be time to get excited again in Portland, but getting to the playoffs will be tough in the West.

Acquired: Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson

Drafted: C.J. McCollum (#10), Allen Crabbe (#31)

Lost: J.J. Hickson, Eric Maynor, Nolan Smith, Luke Babbitt, Jared Jeffries

Depth Chart:

Starters: Damian Lillard (PG), Wesley Matthews (SG), Nicolas Batum (SF), LaMarcus Aldridge (PF), Robin Lopez (C)

Bench: Thomas Robinson (PF), Mo Williams (PG), Dorell Wright (SF), C.J. McCollum (PG), Meyers Leonard (C)

Team Stock: 

Up: Damian Lillard - Winning Rookie of the Year will definitely raise your stock on the team. In what was considered an iffy draft class, Lillard stole the show and took the Blazers fanbase by storm. Now in the followup year with Aldridge hopefully healthy and new additions to help the team, Lillard will have bigger expectations to bring this team back to the playoffs. With a loaded Point Guard class in the West, Lillard will have to be on his game again this year. They'll be expecting him.

Down: Nicolas Batum - While last year saw a huge jump in minutes for Nicolas Batum, it didn't see a very good year overall in stats. While his points, rebounds and assists went up barely, his shooting percentage took a fall, and a lot of blame for this team's fall was put on him not doing enough. With the team looking up this year, this could be a telling year on what Batum's stock will look like not just for this year, but for the future.

X-Factor - LaMarcus Aldridge - One of the players in the conversation for top Power Forward in the NBA is LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been the image of this team for a while until Lillard was drafted. Even with Damian on the team, the Blazers are only going as far as Aldridge can take them. He's one of the top post-up options in the NBA and the Blazers will need him to be big especially without an imposing Center on the team. This team could make the playoffs this year, but a lot of those expectations will be hoping Aldridge has another amazing year for Portland.

Question to Ponder...Should Portland be Buyers or Sellers at the Deadline this year?

Right now the Blazers are a middle-ground team, and that's one of the worst places to be in the NBA. You don't get top talent in the draft, and you don't get far in the playoffs. This means the Blazers should either go for a really solid team to make a splash this year, or fall off the map and look towards the draft. But which one? They have talented players in Aldridge and Lillard, yet the rest of this team lacks the capability to be real star players. This team is going to have to make this decision soon if they want to avoid the "average team" bug. Which direction do they go? We'll see...

Bold Prediction: The Blazers will be buyers at the trade deadline and go after a SF at the deadline!

This is a team I could definitely see trading for a guy like Luol Deng. This team has tried Batum, yet he just doesn't seem to fit the style they need. I think Batum in Chicago isn't a bad fit either. A deal that involves Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich to Portland for Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum would be one I could see happening. The Blazers would like to start building their core if they're looking to make this group work in the long run, and a deal for a SF like Luol Deng could get this team over the hump and put them in the sleeper contending category out west. I could see them going for a deal like this to surprise people and jump into the next tier in the Western Conference. 

Projected Record: 44-38 8th in the West, 3rd in the Northwest.