The Portland Trail Blazers are the Dark Horses of the West, Again


The projections are out and everyone’s excited to get their hands on what they can expect from the NBA this coming season.

It’s all fairly standard and poses no huge differences from the 2015/16 standings. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton released his plus-minus predictions which projected the Portland Trail Blazers winning a similar amount of games and finishing a measly 7th in the west.

“After reaching the second round of playoffs and adding Festus Ezeli and Evan Turner this offseason, the Blazers hope to take another step in their development. RPM sees them as about the same as 2015/16, when they won 44 games but finished fifth in a weaker West.”

Earlier summer forecasts envisioned the Blazers finishing fourth, with a record number of 46 wins.

Even with the predictions out, Portland could be the dark horses of the West.

History of predictions has shown us that they’re not entirely believable.

Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin thought the Houston Rockets would win 56 games and ESPN had them securing the same amount of games and finishing second in the Western Conference. The Rockets managed 8th in the West and a 41-41 own record.

A bit off the mark, isn’t it?

The Trail Blazers have a lot to be excited about in 2016/17. With Neil Olshey aggressively closing deals and spending time adding talented and young players on cheap and flexible contracts, the Blazers roster is looking extremely promising.

The current playing group has huge amounts of potential, boasting an average age of 24.9 with only Toronto, Philadelphia and Milwaukee being younger. Olshey returned Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard and Allen Crabbe for a combined payroll of $156 million, and didn’t let star player C.J. McCollum come close to free agency, signing him to a 4 year, $106million contract. The former #10 pick is an important shooting guard for the Blazers. He emerged from the 2015/16 season as the NBA’s most improved player and a respectable average of 20.8 PPG and 4.3 assists.

The Blazers also signed credible player Evan Turner to a $70 million, 4 year contract, which caused its fair dose of criticism. Turner isn’t the star player that the Blazers fans wanted, but he brings more to the court. He’s a great assistive guard.

He ranks 31st in the competition with 359 AST and 4.4 APG. Turner will complement the likes of McCollum, Lillard and Crabbe exceptionally well, thrusting upon them the star power the Blazers desperately need.

Having said that, the Blazers still need to add a marquee player to their roster to challenge Golden State, Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs. The roster needs a LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Dwayne Wade. They need a star to rival the West, which they need to trade for as soon as possible.

The Blazers have the youth and power in their roster to win more than 44 games in the 2016/17 season. The team doesn’t have any huge expectations riding on them and could see themselves going deep into the playoffs series.

This dark horse of the West probably won’t make the finals series with Golden State’s roster the way it is, but watch out for the Blazers, because another playoff run is on the cards. 

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