Originally written on Cascadia Sports  |  Last updated 11/10/14
  Portland Trail Blazers’ point guard Damian Lillard commented to journalist Henry Abbott earlier this month that the Blazers could expect 46 wins this season.  What should fans make of this prediction?  46 wins will eek them into the seventh or eighth spot of the Western Conference Playoffs’ lineup.  46 wins is safely pessimistic.  46 wins predicts the same sort of mediocre playing that has been boring Blazers’ fans since the 2010-2011 season.  Implied by Lillard’s prediction is that the Blazers are still missing some key dynamic factor(s). Ball-handling by the Blazers has been disheartening.  They allowed their opponents 691 steals through the course of the 2012-2013 season, earning them 27th in vogue for turnovers.  It’s almost as if they didn’t want the ball.  This is a problem.  Veterans like Mo Williams  and Dorell Wright will likely encourage improvement in this area and Lillard should show progress in his second year.  But none of these solutions are really a magic bullet.  Blazers still have a hole to fill here in order to excel. Blazers’ 2012-2013 hustle on defense also lagged.   Last season, they ranked 28th in the league in steals. In fact, they had a total of 538 steals to the league average 639.   That means they had 101 fewer steals than the average NBA team. That’s not all.  They had a low number of blocked shots.  Lopez, as the predicted first string center for the 2013-2014 season, seems the likely candidate to bolster this category.  But his record for blocks in the NBA is not great. Lamarcus Aldridge, the reigning center, offers little in this category.  Nicolas Batum provided over 20% of the team’s blocked shots last season and his defensive skills have improved over time. But Batum cannot do it alone. This presents a mid-season opportunity to pick up a player with good defensive potential. The Trail Blazers are perched at the entry to the Western Conference playoffs. Lillard predicts they will make it, but just.  To excel, the team must nurture the ball more—hold on to it, value it, salvage it from their opponents.  They must follow Batum’s defensive lead and show greater hustle.  Fixing these things coupled with improving an already solid offense should lead to the kind of winning season for which fans have been waiting.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Aaron Rodgers buys TVs for Packers teammates

Harbaugh smiled when asked about Michigan's bday tweet

Jackie Robinson West Little League accused of cheating

Police: Fire that burned down McClain's home 'suspicious'

Furniture store will refund purchases if OSU wins title

What each NFC team in the hunt should ask for from Santa

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Is SI ashamed to mention Jameis Winston on its cover?

Kobe Bryant disappointed Lakers didn't get Rajon Rondo

Niners OT Anthony Davis takes shot at offensive coordinator

Report: Josh Smith expected to sign with Rockets

Cullen Jenkins unhappy over his roughing the passer fine

Bochy: Peavy trade was best in-season move of 2014

Peyton Manning plans to be back with Broncos next year

WATCH: Blazers announcer botches Damian Lillard call

WATCH: P.K. Subban disguises himself, surprises kids for Xmas

Baseball cards: a fan's love for the ultimate stocking stuffer

Packers game is a career defining moment for Stafford

A look inside Jason Grilli's contract with the Braves

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

WATCH: Bahamas Bowl ends on insane Hail Mary play

Mike Yeo slams Wild for not having 'winner's attitude'

Michigan St. QB, Ohio State TE have awkward Twitter exchange

Will FIFA ever care to change?

Top storyline for each NFL Week 17 game

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.

WATCH: Announcer botches call

Police: McClain fire 'suspicious'

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

Bahamas Bowl ends on crazy Hail Mary

49ers OT Davis takes shot at coordinator

Will FIFA ever care to change?

Top storyline for each Week 17 game

40 great Christmas-related sports names

Nick Mangold and dealing with feelings as a sports fan

Ibaka, Aldridge ejected for scuffle

Baseball cards: a fan's love for the ultimate stocking stuffer

Nick Young on Kobe-less win: He needs to pass

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.