There are a couple of important differences between the Portland Trail Blazers and the just-covered Raptors, and hardly any of them offer support for Rip City’s greater chances.
The Blazers were lean last year, buttressing an elite starting five with next to nothing off the bench. Bringing in Chris Kaman and Steve Blake does not feel like a Fantastic remedy.
Of course, second-year guard C.J. McCollum needs to see his role increase this year, and he’s got the combo-guard skills to produce an effect. Head coach Terry Stotts seems to be leaning toward him as a sixth man; McCollum led all Blazers reservations in minutes per game during the preseason.
For all that, it’s hard to grasp why Portland is viewed as a larger title hazard than Toronto. The Blazers’ conference is tougher, their bench remains thinner and they ended the year at only 23-19 following a start. Portland is a good group, but it may not be much more than that.
It’ll be up to Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and the rest of the starters to duplicate that fifth-ranked offensive evaluation. If they can’t do this, imagine defense and also an abysmal chair may finally hit among the past year’s biggest surprises having a painful dose of truth.
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