Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/18/14
What will 2013 hold? The New Year is upon us, and it’s time for the obligatory resolutions that will help us all turn over a new leaf. Everybody can make changes in their lives to help better themselves, and the Portland Trail Blazers are no exception. When the Blazers entered the 2012-13 season, nobody quite knew what to expect. While there are a still a number of questions surrounding this organization,  we now have a much better idea of where the team must improve moving forward. Most resolutions are gone and forgotten by February, but if the Blazers are serious about getting the most out of themselves—now and in the future— they’ll take self-reflections to heart and do what’s necessary as the year progresses. The Blazers starters have been great this season, but they’re playing too many minutes for their own good. (Photo: Don Ryan/AP) Improve Bench Play The Trail Blazers have a number of things they need to work on, but bench play has been as bad as it gets. The team’s second unit doesn’t score, they don’t rebound and they have been outplayed in almost every game this season. It’s not completely their fault, as the organization opted to save money for next summer instead of adding depth; but it’s to the point where we’re legitimately surprised when a reserve has a good game. The problem with the bench isn’t necessarily a lack of talent—although they could use help in that department too. It’s a lack of experience. They’re not going to become seasoned veterans over the next six months, but more time on the court is going to help. Conserve Starters’ Minutes With the bench being awful this season, it’s easy to see why the Blazers have played their starters ridiculous minutes. Portland has three players—Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge—who are in the top 15 in minutes played this season, and as good as they’ve been, you can’t wear them into the ground. First and foremost, this is a team who has been hit with the injury bug more than practically any other team the past few seasons. Playing your go-to players as much as Portland does is asking for injuries. Secondly, how is the bench ever going to improve without seeing the floor? It’s tempting to play the starters all game long, as they’re the No. 1 scoring group in the league, but a rotation has to be balanced, and that’s the furthest adjective from what Portland is at this point. Keep Establishing Two-Man Game Damian Lillard has taken the NBA by storm, and he’s put himself in position to compete for the Rookie of the Year Award by the time the season comes to an end. That being said, he can’t win games on his own—unless you count his game-winning shot, of course—and he has to use LaMarcus Aldridge when it comes to the pick-and-roll offense. These two players can make each other better. Lillard can create opportunities for Aldridge while taking pressure off him to score, and Aldridge can help spread the floor with his shot, giving the point guard more real estate to work with. Portland has the potential for a deadly combo here, but Terry Stotts needs to recognize it and diagram sets that are just for them as they continue to jell. Luke Babbitt is not in the long-term plans forthe Portland Trail Blazers. Photo Credit Bruce Ely/The Oregonian Win the Winnable Games The Western Conference is more top-heavy this year than we’ve seen in a while, which means that the bottom seeds are open for grabs, and likely will be through the rest of the regular season. There have been stretches already this year where Portland has played to their competition. They’ve played up to the teams with better records and down to the teams with worse records, and as a result, they’ve dropped a handful of winnable games. For a team looking to sneak into the postseason, that is no recipe for success. If Portland wants to compete in the 2013 playoffs, there can be no more losing to the teams stuck in the basement of the league. Choose a Direction Neil Olshey and the Trail Blazers organization started planning for the future this past offseason when they declined options on Luke Babbitt, Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams.  Now, it’s time to choose again, as the team appears stuck in the dreaded “neutral zone.” You always want to see a team push for the playoffs, but sometimes pushing without enough talent lands you a less-than desirable lottery pick. If Portland truly wants to make a move at the playoffs, Olshey has to consider a mid-season move. There are a number of players on the free-agent market who would take a one-year deal to help Portland reach the postseason. Nobody out there is going to instantly save this franchise, but another presence would help bolster a team that already has energy and potential. Olshey has stated that he doesn’t want to build through trades, and that he prefers the draft. If this is the case, he must commit to testing the bench, and if they can’t improve, you know you have a better lottery pick waiting for you on the other side of the 2012-13 season. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Clint Trickett retires due to concussions, hid two

Drew Stanton likely out for the year, postseason included

Byron Scott: ‘Idiots’ think Lakers are better team without Kobe

Undrafted QB Connor Shaw to sign with Browns, likely start

Report: Alex Smith out Week 17 with lacerated spleen

Belichick: Garoppolo has better understanding of NFL

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Lionel Hollins: 'Honored and blessed to coach Kevin Garnett'

Curt Schilling gives Johnny Manziel advice on Twitter

The last time the Lions won in Green Bay

Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks are dying

Andre Johnson willing to take pay cut with Texans?

Mets star David Wright reaches out to sons of slain NYPD officer

Video: Rudy Gay tosses half-court alley-oop to McLemore

WATCH: Craig Sager is touched by outpouring of support during leukemia fight

Hiroki Kuroda returns to Japan, ditches Yankees

Kevin Garnett: ‘Very weird’ to see Celtics without Rajon Rondo

Report: New Jersey Devils fire head coach Peter DeBoer

Mark Richt confirms Todd Gurley will leave UGA for NFL

Frank Gore: Colin Kaepernick is 'not broke'

The story of Morgan Bulkeley and birth of National League

Five breakout stars in 2014

The 2014 NFL All-Help Offense

Five things the world learned about the NBA on Christmas

What if Bear Bryant coached in the NFL?

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Five breakout stars in 2014

The 2014 NFL All-Help Offense

Five things learned about NBA on X-Mas

What if Bear Bryant coached in the NFL?

Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks are dying

The last time the Lions won in Green Bay

Year's most notable sports media stories

'Roberto Gronkowski wishes fans Feliz Navidad

Are the Seahawks back on track?

Wright reaches out to slain officer's sons

Q&A with Rich Eisen; TNF, DirecTV and living in LA

Dan Le Batard sums up Miami's relationship with LeBron

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.