NBA Predictions 2011-12: Stat Projections for Starters of Portland Trail Blazers
After a couple weeks of uncertainty and trade rumors, the Portland Trail Blazers roster is starting to look ready for the start of the regular season, which is fast approaching and only a week away at this point.
The Blazers haven't made a huge splash in the free-agent market this year, but they have made some smart, inexpensive moves. Those moves along with injuries have led to some dramatic changes to their roster from what it was like in training camp at the beginning of last season.
This could hurt the team in the long run, given the shortened training camp and less time to build chemistry, but most players with big roles from last season are still the same.
Will there be enough shots to go around with this group? Where will the points end up coming from? Here are some stat projections for Portland's projected starters this upcoming season.
1. Raymond Felton, PG
The Blazers lost a very reliable player in Andre Miller, but they got another one who is nearly as consistent in point guard Raymond Felton. He was traded to Portland in the offseason, and will take over as the team's starting point guard.
Last season was probably the best, statistically, of Felton's career up to this point. As the second option in New York behind Amar'e Stoudemire, he averaged 17.1 points and nine assists per game, which was good enough to get him into the All-Star conversation for the first time. He didn't end up making it, but put up some good number on an average team.
After being traded to Denver, his numbers took a hit, as he was forced to switch roles and back up point-guard-of-the-future Ty Lawson. It says a lot about him personally that he accepted the role and was still able to play relatively well, shooting an astounding 46 percent from three in those last 21 games.
This year, the Blazers will likely pay at a faster pace than they have in recent seasons, which should allow Felton to put up good numbers once again, though maybe not quite what he reached in New York.
Projections: 15 points, eight assists, 1.5 steals per game
2. Wesley Matthews, SG
Wesley Matthews showed a lot of improvement from his first season to his second, and while the gradient is likely to be quite as sharp from his second to his third, Matthews will likely continue to get better this season. Having a clearly defined role as the starter going into this season can only help.
Matthews went from undrafted free agent to quality starter on a playoff team in a short amount of time, and has become one of the Blazers' most important players. He is usually the second or third option on offense while on the court, and is often counted on to provide tough defense against opposing wing players, which he does well.
He has also remained relatively healthy over the course of his career, though he did undergo a minor surgical procedure during the offseason which apparently has healed up nicely. Between Felton and Matthews, the Blazers have a nice backcourt tandem which should do well for them this season.
Projections: 17 points, 4.5 rebounds, three assists per game
3. Gerald Wallace, SF
Gerald Wallace didn't have a huge statistical impact immediately after coming to Portland, but he got stronger as the season wore on, exemplified by his 32-point, 12-rebound performance in the season-ending loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Wallace is a very well-rounded player, and should benefit from the Blazers' transition to a more run-oriented team. It will be interesting to see how much faster they actually end up playing, with Nate McMillan still being the team's head coach, but any increase would seem to help, rather than hurt, Wallace's ability to put up numbers.
Defensively, he should still be a force, and will be counted on to play bigger at times, given Marcus Camby's durability issues.
Projections: 16 points, 8.5 rebounds, two steals per game
4. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF
LaMarcus Aldridge has the best shot at being selected to the All-Star team of any member of the Blazers, and if he once again puts up numbers, he could very well earn that long-coveted selection.
He is the leader of the Blazers now, and with the Brandon Roy era officially over in Portland, the Blazers cannot afford any sort of regression in Aldridge's play this season. He needs to continue to build on last season's successful campaign and cement his status as a top-five power forward in the game right now.
Aldridge led the team in points last season, and also was one of the Blazers' top rebounders and shot-blockers. This year will be no different, and he should flirt with a double-double average over the duration of the season.
Projections: 22 points, nine rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game
5. Marcus Camby, C
With Greg Oden's health status now a question mark going into the upcoming season, Marcus Camby looks to be the starter. He is the best healthy center on the Blazers roster, although nagging injuries will probably keep him out for at least 15 to 20 games during the course of the season.
Free-agent Kurt Thomas and second-year player Chris Johnson will provide insurance at the position, where Aldridge can also play some if needed.
Camby's offensive game has been on the decline for years, and you can look for that trend to continue this year. He won't score many points other than the occasional putback or his 18- to 20-foot funky-looking jump shot that he has. He'll still rebound a lot while on the court, and block shots on occasion, but having him on the floor puts a lot of pressure on the other Blazers to score more points. However, it also means more touches for the others, which is sometimes a very good thing.
Projections: four points, nine rebounds, 1one block per game, 45 to 50 games played