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Portland Trail Blazers 2015-16 Season Predictions: The National Media’s Take

Monday, October 26, 2015


With the 2015-16 NBA season as “around the corner” as can possibly be, the Oregon Sports News roster is set to participate in a Portland Trail Blazers Roundtable Discussion next week. The OSN roster will hit the topics that are on Rip City’s mind entering the newest rebuild, and the participating columnists will make their predictions on how this year goes for the defending Northwest Division champions.

Before we bless our faithful readers with this comprehensive look, it’s important to recognize what the national media is saying at this point in the process. Spoiler alert: It’s not largely positive. 

With less than a week to go until the season-opener against the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland is hoping it can exceed expectations in the post-LaMarcus Aldridge (and virtually everyone else) era.

Here’s an aggregate look at how those across the league see the Trail Blazers’ outlook at this juncture.

Kevin Pelton, ESPN (Insider)

Win-Loss Prediction: 31-51
Conference Finish: 11th

Telling Passage

Obviously, Portland lost more production than any team in the NBA over the summer. Players responsible for more than 60 percent of the Blazers' 2014-15 points and nearly two-thirds of their rebounds have departed. Still, don't pencil Portland in among the league's bottom five teams. There's more talent here than the reputations of the Blazers' players might indicate. Aminu and McCollum are favorites of ESPN's real plus-minus; Davis, Leonard and Plumlee are high-efficiency scorers; and Vonleh has the potential to help right away.
Portland's inexperience and limited outside shooting on the wing will probably prevent the team from making a playoff push, but if veteran coach Terry Stotts can find the right combinations to get the most out of the new pieces, the Blazers could remain competitive. Thirty wins is a realistic baseline, and RPM-based projections show Portland closer to 40 wins than 30.
Assuming they're out of the playoff race, the Blazers won't have much incentive to milk every win out of this season, which could limit their total. This year may end up looking like 2012-13, Lillard's rookie campaign, when Portland was 33-36 before losing its final 13 games.

Dan Favale, Bleacher Report

W-L Prediction: 22-60
Division Finish: 5th

Telling Passage

Success and failure will be measured by whether the Blazers have an actual core in place. Stotts will experiment. There will be different starting lineups and shifting second units. The Blazers, in all likelihood, will make some midseason changes once they have a better idea of what works.
In doing that, Portland will forfeit its ability to do much of anything. This team will not be the second coming of the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns, throwing the West for a loop by sniffing the postseason. The Northwest Division crown will go back to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Portland will be left looking up at the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and, yes,Minnesota Timberwolves.
These Blazers will be exactly who they were built to be: a marginally competitive basketball team dedicated to finding out which of its current players are worth keeping around.  

Paul Flannery & Tom Ziller (SB Nation)

W-L Prediction: N/A
Conference Standing: N/A

Telling Passage

I think 25-30 wins is about right given the West-heavy schedule. Really, if Dame misses any games, those are straight losses. The wins will come against East teams and a couple fellow travelers in the Northwest Division. (Hello Wolves and Nuggets.)
But I also think this can be a quick turnaround. No need to tear any more drywall down. 

Brett Koremenos (RealGM)

W-L Prediction: 39-43 (Best-Case Scenario); 28-54 (Worst-Case Scenario)
Conference Finish: N/A

Telling Passage

What’s left on this roster are a number of players that typically rely heavily on others to create openings in the defense for them. Which is where Lillard comes in. Over the past few seasons, we’ve all seen how effective he is as a scorer, as Lillard’s two straight seasons of averaging over 20 points per game attest to. But without Aldridge, or ever Batum and Matthews to share the burden of creating good offense, it will fall solely on Lillard to not just create shots for himself, but the rest of the team as well.
This is where Lillard’s game needs to reach a new level, as last year he finished just 20th in Assist Opportunities (passes to a teammate that lead to a shot attempt, made or not), per NBA.com’s player tracking data. For someone who played with as many weapons as he did last season and has the ability to make a wide variety of passes, that rank is shockingly low.

Basketball Insiders

W-L Prediction: N/A
Conference Finish: N/A

Telling Passage

It’s going to take some time for Portland to be a playoff team again, especially in the brutal Western Conference. As previously mentioned, the Blazers have a ton of young guys on this team. They will need to develop those players and have them reach their full potential before we’re talking about Portland competing at a high level again. However, the Blazers do have something that a lot of young, up-and-coming teams don’t and that’s a superstar. Damian Lillard could significantly accelerate their rebuild and it’ll be exciting to see what he can do as the main attraction in Portland. With all of the young talent on the roster (and some top picks likely coming in the next few years), this could be a team that is very good a few years down the road when all of their young guns are hitting their stride at the same time.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films. 

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#12 Rollerball

Some of the non-athletic scenes in this dystopian classic show their age, but Rollerball is a strangely prescient film that anticipated both the corporatization of sport and fans’ limitless taste for violence. Bonus points for the ominous intro music.

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#11 A League of Their Own

A comedy that looks back to the antithesis of corporate sport – a women’s baseball league during World War II with many memorable lines to choose from (e.g.,”There’s no crying in baseball.”)

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#10 Remember The Titans

Yes, filmmakers took liberties with some of the facts dealing with the integration of a high school football team in Virginia. But there’s a reason football teams often screen this film on the eve of big games. It’s a damn inspirational tale.

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#9 The Natural

This film has grown on me over time. Originally, it seemed slow and schmaltzy. Now, it seems well-paced and charming. Then and now, the re-created scenes of pre-World War II ballparks arrive like perfectly preserved postcards from the past.  

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#8 The Longest Yard

Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.  

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#7 Slap Shot

The Hanson brothers. Enough said.

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#6 Rocky

Often imitated, but never replicated. The definitive underdog boxing story featuring Sylvester Stallone before he became a self-caricature in multiple sequels. Impossible to hear the theme song without being motivated to get off the couch.

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#5 Seabiscuit

A fantastic book as well as a great movie. Like “The Natural,” Seabiscuit captures its Depression-era setting for modern-day viewers taken back to an era when horse racing actually meant something in America. 

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#4 Requiem for a Heavywei

A too often-forgotten film these days but a wonderful boxing drama that shows the sport’s underside with memorable  performances by Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn.

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#3 Hoosiers

Want to know something about small-town America in the 1950s and about Indiana basketball? This hoops movie does all of that with a healthy dose of redemption throughout. 

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#2 Bull Durham

There’s a pretty good case to be made this movie played a huge part in the rebirth and re-marketing of minor league baseball. As written by former minor leaguer Ron Shelton, there are many great scenes to choose from but this one is a favorite. 

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#1 Raging Bull

A rags-to-riches-to-rags story of boxer Jake LaMotta meets the actor born to play him, Robert De Niro. Not a false moment in this black-and-white powerhouse.


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