On paper, the 2014-2015 regular season was a successful one for the Portland Trailblazers, but the playoffs were a different story. The 4-1 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the Western Conference postseason contributed to the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, which set off a chain reaction. As a result, entering the 2015-2016 NBA season, the only returning starter is Damian Lillard, who is now undoubtedly the face of the franchise.
Although Trailblazer fans probably don’t want to hear it, GM Neil Olshey made the correct move in deciding to completely tear down the foundation of their roster in favor of young players with high upside. Throughout this first month of the season, it will be worth keeping an eye on acquisitions such as Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee, C.J. McCollum and Al-Farouq Aminu. Portland’s rotation of will likely continually change throughout November, as head coach Terry Stotts will conduct ongoing experiments with what works well and what doesn’t.
The obvious key match-up in November will come on November 11th, when LaMarcus Aldridge and his new team trot into Portland. Aldridge’s homecoming should prove to be very emotional for anybody who follows the organization and will likely be met with a mixture of cheers and boos. The Spurs have been a Western Conference juggernaut for a decade and a half and show no signs of slowing down, at least not this season. The two teams will meet again for a rematch on November 16th, this time around at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
A big stat to monitor regarding the Trailblazers will be the amount of 3-pointers made. This team was 6th in the league last season in shots from behind the arc and their offense heavily relied on their ability to sink long bombs, but with 6 of their 7 top snipers gone, their ability to score will be crippled in comparison.
With 18 total competitions on their plate through the month of November, the young Blazers will be given a chance to play through their mistakes. A prime stretch for Portland in the early going with be a 4 game road trip from November 13th to 18th, in which they will take on the Grizzlies, Hornets, Spurs and Rockets. With no true veteran presence in the locker room, it will be interesting to see how this inexperienced roster handles adversity against some of the league’s best teams. The question of whether or not Damian Lillard is mentally mature enough to take over that leadership role at this point in his career.