There are a couple of important differences between the Portland Trail Blazers and the just-covered Raptors, and hardly any of them offer aid for Rip City’s greater chances.
The Blazers were lean annually, buttressing an elite starting five with next to nothing off the bench. Bringing in Chris Kaman and Steve Blake does not feel like a 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 make an impact. Head coach Terry Stotts is apparently leaning toward him as a first man; McCollum led all Blazers reservations in minutes per game during the preseason.
For all this, it’s hard to grasp why Portland is viewed as a bigger title hazard than Toronto. The Blazers’ conference is tougher, their seat remains thinner and they ended the year at just 23-19 following a start. Portland is a good team, but it may not be more than that.
It’ll be up to Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and the rest of the starters to replicate that fifth-ranked offensive rating. If they can’t do that, suspect defense and also an abysmal chair may finally hit one of the past year’s biggest surprises with a painful dose of reality.
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