The 2013-14 NBA season is looking a great deal more hopeful for the Portland Trail Blazers than the 2012-13 season turned out to be. The Blazers featured the Rookie of the Year last year in point guard Damian Lillard, but an incredibly shallow bench limited their potential as a unit and was ultimately the reason that they finished with a record of only 33-49.
Coming into this season, though, the Blazers have made several moves over the off-season to try and remedy their unproductive bench. They are without potentially explosive rookie C.J. McCollum after a foot injury he suffered in training camp, but they still have added veteran guard Mo Williams, rookie guard Allen Crabbe, young forward Thomas Robinson and solid center Robin Lopez. Considering what they were working with last year, this season almost surely will hold more fruitful results for Portland.
However, their over/under is one of the hardest to predict coming into this season. Widely used sports book Bovada has their over/under line set at 38.5 wins for the season. Obviously taking the over would mean that they would finish the season with six more wins than they grabbed last season. Considering that their only real departure was that of J.J. Hickson, whom they replaced with Lopez, the question when picking their over/under really boils down to whether or not their additions to their bench are worth six wins.
Personally, I believe that what this team did this off-season is enough to get them at least 39 wins this season. Excluding Eric Maynor who came over at the trade deadline last season, their three leading bench players from last season averaged only a combined 13.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.8 assist per game. That’s incredibly unproductive from your three “best” bench players. Throwing in guys like Williams, Crabbe and Robinson are going to be huge for the Blazers as they won’t have such a severe dip in production when they go to their reserves.
There are obviously other factors in how the Blazers’ season will turn out, like how much Lillard improves and what happens with forward LaMarcus Aldridge. However, their bench improvements are enough for me to take the over for them this season. Even if their bench is only mediocre this season, that’s an enormous step up from last year and should mean more success.