It has been nothing short of a remarkable season for the upstart Portland Trail Blazers, who are currently tied for the league’s forth-best record and sit third in the Western Conference at 36-15.
Despite being one of the NBA’s youngest teams, Portland has had what appears to be a coming-of-age-type season where they have found a way to channel their talent to consistent success on the court in the 2013-14 season.
So without further ado, here are five reasons why the Trail Blazers have been one of the league’s top teams this season:
1. Potent Offense
Over the past three seasons, Portland has struggled to put points on the board on a consistent basis as they were ranked no better than 15th in the league in points per game.
That is not the case this season as they hold the NBA’s highest scoring offense at 108.0 points per game led by their two All-Stars in the league’s sixth-leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (24.1) and 14th-leading scorer Damian Lillard (20.8) . The Trail Blazers’ offense is more than just Aldridge and Lillard as their entire starting five that includes Nicolas Batum (12.8), Wesley Matthews (16.9) and Robin Lopez (10.6) all average double-figures in scoring.
Their offense has surpassed the century mark in 40 out of the 51 games played this season. This is not to forget the fact that the Trail Blazers are also the league’s fourth-best team in assists with an average of 24.0 per game with three players averaging 4.6 or more assists per contest. It is not only their ability to just pass the ball, but to do it efficiently as their 1.83 assists-to-turnover ratio is tops for the NBA this season.
As a top-five passing team in the league, it is no surprise that Portland holds the highest scoring offense.
Along with holding the league’s best offense, the Trail Blazers are also the NBA’s top-ranked rebounding team at 46.3 boards per game and have the third-best rebound differential margin at 3.5 per game.
Portland features three players averaging 6.5 boards or more led by Aldridge (11.6), who is currently sixth in rebounds and tied for third in defensive rebounds at 9.1. The Trail Blazers’ ability to grab rebounds has played a major factor as it transitions over for more opportunities to score.
The fact that they are able to rebound at such a high clip allows them to stay in games and when the game slows down in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, a key board can be the determining factor in squeezing out a win.
3. Beating below .500 teams
A sign of any good team in any sport is their ability to take care of business against teams that have losing records.
The Trail Blazers this season have taken care of the task as they hold a 23-4 record against teams that have a below .500 record. They are also a difficult team to beat at home as they are 19-5 at the Rose Garden this season.
Portland’s ability to beat bad teams and defend their home court bodes well in the last 31 games of the season as they have 17 home games remaining and 14 games against opponents who hold a below .500 record.
Over the past few seasons, the Trail Blazers have been known as the team that has plenty of talent but lack the ability to sustain any success due to injuries to key players on the team.
This season that has not been the case, as Portland for the most part has been a healthy team as evident by all five of their starters having played in all 51 games up to this point. This also includes their four key bench players in Dorell Wright, Mo Williams, Joel Freeland, and Thomas Robinson all appearing in at least 44 games this season.
For the Trail Blazers to have ball roll their way with health this season, it has contributed to their ability to maintain their early-season success throughout the year. For any team, injuries play a major factor in the level of success in a season. So if Portland is able to keep their core group of players healthy, it should translate to more wins this season.
In his second season as the Trail Blazers head coach, Terry Stotts has led his team to one of the best records in the league as the All-Star break nears.
This is a different tune from last season as Portland struggled to win on a consistent basis as they finished the year losing their final 13 games, which effectively eliminated them from playoff contention. This season, the Trail Blazers have seemed find their identity under Stotts as they hold the league’s best offense with balanced scoring throughout their starting lineup.
Portland began the season on a tear by racing out to a 17-3 record, but has since cooled off from their hot start. So with the second half of the season around the corner, Stotts can use last season’s struggles as motivation to help his team reach the playoff for first time since the 2010-11 season.
Here’s video of LaMarcus Aldridge’s top 10 plays this season:
Photo Credit: Bruce Ely / The Oregonian