It is with some caution that I try to make predictions about the upcoming NBA season, in general. And the Portland Trail Blazers, in particular.
A short season makes for smaller sample size, in a statistical sense. That means more chance for flukes and odd happenings to have an impact. It's a season when injuries will play a huge role. Normally a player misses 30 games and it may not be decimating to his team. But this year, it's virtually a half season. And with all the games piling up, it really is going to be a hazardous year for players.
It's going to take prudent minutes-played decisions by coaches, great conditioning work by strength coaches and intelligent pacing by the players themselves to get through this train wreck of a season without injury. I cannot understate the importance of all those things.
As far as the Trail Blazers are concerned, I can't get a good handle on how good they'll be. Or not be. There was not enough of an exhibition season to get a solid feel for them, I'm afraid. But so far, I don't have a lot of optimism about this team.
To me, it's as if there's something missing. And I don't mean Brandon Roy. I just don't feel there's enough scoring. Enough good shooting. Outside shooting has been a question mark for this team now for about a decade and seemingly nothing gets done about it.
(And while I think the addition of Jamal Crawford was a good one, for people thinking he's a big-time shooter, well, forget about it. He's 41 percent for his career, which doesn't bode well considering he's not going to get a lot of wide-open shots out of this offense.)
And running an offense that's mostly pick-and-roll with shooters spotted up around the perimeter and no consistent low-post threats is the same prescription for mediocrity that this team has followed throughout most of Nate McMillan's tenure. And with so many new players, it's hard to imagine this group finding its identity in a rapid manner.
The big thing about this year, though, is that it's very likely a big transition season. With so many contracts expiring, it's probable that a lot of changes will be made in the upcoming offseason. And there's the feeling, too, that if this group under this coach doesn't get past the first round in the playoffs this time around big changes will be made.
I'm not predicting a major tear-down, because the makings of a good team are here in LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Batum. But progress needs to be seen this season with this group for it to remain a viable part of the future.
I believe McMillan is probably more at risk after this season than ever before. Yes, he's constantly had to fight through injuries while coaching the Trail Blazers, but don't forget that even with those injuries, he's still had a decent roster capable of winning most of the time.
This season he's trying to pull off a massive change in the way his team plays, going from one of the slowest-paced teams in basketball to an uptempo club. So far, the results have been mixed.
I don't believe this is necessarily the way McMillan is most comfortable coaching. I'm not sure it will stick. And I'm not sure his team will be effective with it.
But I know this, the Blazer management team is going to make a run at an established general manager when this season ends. In most cases, if they bring in a big name or a guy making a lot of money, he's likely going to get to name his own coach, too. It's just the way it works in pro sports.
That could mean, quite obviously, the end for McMillan. And that's just one more reason this season could be a big franchise turning point. Will there be enough success to fight off the wrecking ball?
Or will one more year of playoff one-and-done mean changes on the sidelines and on the floor?
That's why they play the games, of course. You will find my NBA predictions right here, along with those of the rest of us here at csnnw.com. And by the way, I hope your holiday was as much fun as mine was -- and best wishes for the coming new year!