The 2012-13 season was all-new everything for the Portland Trail Blazers: New head coach, new (rookie) point guard, and new offensive system. But for the Blazers, new didn’t translate into wins. The team struggled with adjustments, losing the last 13 games of the season to finish below .500 and miss the playoffs.
But that was then. And this is now.
Head coach Terry Stotts has engineered an incredible turnaround for the Rip City squad. With a motion offense and leadership from Damian Lillard, Portland has racked up victories this season — including 11 straight in November — and is competing for a top seed in the West.
What a difference a year can make. Here’s a look at how the 2012-13 Blazers stack up against this season’s squad.
A Much Improved Record
THEN: The Blazers won 33 games last season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
NOW: Portland recorded 36 wins before the All-Star break and is currently in the playoff hunt. (As of March 18, Portland is 43-24 and the West’s fifth seed.) Keep an eye on the Blazers to finish the regular season with more than 50 wins and a sixth or seventh seed when postseason play begins next month.
THEN: The 2012-13 Blazers averaged 100.7 points per game, ranking them 21st out of the league’s 30 teams. Portland had the second worst team field goal percentage, too, knocking down only 47.4 percent of their shots. Adjusting to Stotts’s flow offense (an offense built on lots of movement and extra passes to find the open man and dizzy defenders) took some time.
NOW: The Blazers developed solid ball movement that has resulted in averaging 107.7 points a game this season. That’s second best behind the Los Angeles Clippers. Portland also has a good mix of scoring options all over the court — Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews on the perimeter, and LaMarcusAldridge and Brooke Lopez in the post — boasting one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the league.
An All-Star Duo
THEN: In his first year in the pros, Lillard shined with 19 points per game and won the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Aldridge’s 21.1 points and 9.1 rebounds down low complemented Lillard’s jumpers and threes.
NOW: They’re even better. This season, Lillard is a better perimeter shooter (a four percent uptick in his shot) and Aldridge has polished his midrange jumper, while grabbing 11.2 rebounds to maintain his double-double average. The formidable high-scoring tandem (the two account for almost half of the team’s scoring) represented the Blazers at this year’s NBA All-Star game.
For more on the Trail Blazer’s hot season, check out our feature on the team from the March issue of Sports Illustrated Kids!
Photo: Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images