1. Damian Lillard
2. Batum's Emergence as a Stat Sheet Stuffer
Wants and expectations for Batum were always too high in my opinion. He finally reached what I think will be his niché. He has improved tremendously as a passer, and has become much more aggressive on the boards. He has the potential next year to really become a lock down defender. He has all the physical attributes and he has come a long way with the mental part of playing in the NBA. The biggest thing to look for next season is if he takes on the responsibility of guarding the best player every game next season. If he continues to increase his numbers like he has the last 3 seasons and cuts down on the turnovers next season, he could put up Andre Iguodala like numbers.
3. The Number of Young Players They Have
The Blazers have 9 players on their roster under the age of 25. 5 of which were playing in their first NBA seasons. The only way for them to go is up. With a full offseason, full professional weight training regiment, and a full season of experience behind them, I'm looking for a huge improvement next year from Meyers Leonard, Will Barton, and Victor Claver. I was really high on Will Barton coming out of college and thought with the right weight training program and improving his jump shot, he has a chance to be a great 6th man infusion of energy.
And it gives the Blazers the option to acquire some veteran players in exchange for some of these young players. Accumulating young players does you nothing but good. It gives you options to get some of the veterans that the Blazers desperately need. And the young only get younger with another lottery pick this year. I'm looking at you Anthony Bennett!
1. No Veterans
While being young has its advantages, it also has its downsides. With the lack of general NBA knowledge, and under developed players (because they are young) it is tough to compete against the teams that have veterans that know their roles and are typically bigger and stronger. Veterans bring a special toughness to your team. I'd like to see the front office possibly make a move for someone like maybe a Nate Robinson or another high energy bench player to compliment Lillard.
2. Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
It's the story every year. Front page of the Oregonian is LA going down hurt, Batum going down, Matthews going down and on and on. Every year someone gets hurt and de-rails the season. You'd think they would change their trainer by now...
3. Bloated Contracts
Aldridge has a giant contract and Batum's is pretty pricey too. Batum definitely stepped up after his big contract and Aldridge has earned it, no doubt about that. But it doesn't take away from how big these contracts are. And Lillard is going to want a new contract once his rookie deal is up and it won't be cheap. It may not be an immediate threat, but eventually they may have to make a choice on who they want to lead them into the future.
The future is bright for the Blazers, but I feel like I have been here before. I've seen the potential with all our recent draft picks, our future stars, and our decent young players. It scares me to see all this potential because the only thing I can think of is we are one knee injury away from being right back where we started from. But I'm looking to the future. I'm looking to what we will be. And I'm optimistic for the first time since I saw Brandon Roy come off the court, never to return.