Projected starters: Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez
Rising: Three point shooting. The Blazers are shooting the lights out as a team, putting up 41.5 percent from behind the arc. They're led by Lillard, Batum, and Matthews, all of whom are over 40 percent so far season. Matthews in particular has been absolutely deadly. He's shooting 53 percent from three on the season, and, according to SportVU, he has been one of the most dangerous players in the league on the catch and shoot.
Not so much: Interior defense. The Blazers have been stout on the perimeter, allowing only 29 percent shooting from three. But with Robin Lopez tasked with the primary responsibilities in the paint, opponents have their way with Portland down low, and it's apparently a hot topic among Blazers fans. As Blazers Edge puts it:
On the home front, the Portland Trail Blazers' struggle with interior defense is no secret. In their first game of the year, the Blazers made Miles Plumlee look like a Top 15 player in the league. Their only other loss this year came at the hands of theHouston Rockets and Dwight Howard, arguably the most dominant big man in the NBA today. And, although he did much of his damage from the perimeter, DeMarcus Cousinsmade the Blazers pay from the inside in the second half on Friday night.
A lot of what the Blazers are facing is a personnel problem: They feature two centers in Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland, but both have shown foul issues to start the year.
What you might not know: LaMarcus Aldridge still isn't that good. Aldridge has long been a point of disagreement here at DBB, some targeting him as a perfect fit for the Pistons lineup while others poo poo his game. I align with the latter and cosign with the case Kevin Sawyer made in the comments on Saturday. Aldridge is just a volume shooter who brings less and less to the table each year. He's a huge part of the team's defensive struggles, he doesn't create for his teammates, he's a poor rebounder and his advanced shooting percentages are below average. Add it all up and he somehow equals some kind of elite power forward? I don't see it.
Don't let him beat you: Damien Lillard on the other hand is the real star on this team. His numbers were helped last season by a volume of minutes, but he still showed some impressive productivity. He's taken his game to the next level so far this season. He's relying more heavily on three pointers and free throws -- shooting 7.8 threes and 6.3 free throws per game -- and he's making them at a 42.6 and 81.6 percent respectively. He's also improved his assist to turnover ratio from 2.2 to 3.1 so far and started chipping in on the glass with 5.5 per game. That combines for a much greater all around impact on a game than some jump shooting big man.