Tip-off of the 2015-2016 NBA regular season for the Portland Trail Blazers is just 77 days away! I don’t know about you, but this new Blazers squad has me excited! Why do you ask? While I’m not expecting a championship, or even playoffs, we have a team absolutely full of raw potential. Well, aside from 33-year-old Chris Kaman, but every team needs that veteran enforcer.

I mean really, who's going to mess with this guy? He's got the backs of our young guns.

Anyway, I just couldn’t wait for October 28 to see our new squad take the floor. Is C.J. McCollum going to have that big break out year that everyone seems to be talking about? Will Noah Vonleh tap into that unlimited potential and help us miss ol’ #12 a little less? Does Damian Lillard have more room to improve? There are hundreds upon hundreds of questions I have for this season and, quite frankly, I’m just not the patient kind. So I decided to take this to the virtual hardwood on NBA 2k15!

 

The plan is to use completely updated rosters as of 8/7/2015, rookies included. 82-game season, 12 minute quarters, with all ‘natural’ settings turned on (injuries, fatigue, play progression, etc.) to give the most authentic & accurate results possible. No trades or free agent signings on the Blazers’ end will occur during this simulated season.
As we prepare for this virtual season, let’s go over and check the overall ratings of the Portland Trail Blazers players as they are right now.

  • Damian Lillard: 86 OVR
  • Ed Davis: 78 OVR
  • Mason Plumlee: 77 OVR
  • Chris Kaman: 76 OVR
  • Gerald Henderson: 75 OVR
  • C.J. McCollum: 74 OVR
  • Al-Farouq Aminu: 74 OVR
  • Cliff Alexander: 72 OVR
  • Noah Vonleh: 69 OVR
  • Meyers Leonard: 69 OVR
  • Tim Frazier: 69 OVR
  • Phil Pressey: 68 OVR
  • Allen Crabbe: 67 OVR
  • Maurice Harkless: 67 OVR
  • Pat Connaughton 66 OVR
  • Luis Montero: 66 OVR

What stands out to me instantly is that, despite the generally low ratings, over half of this team has a ‘potential grade’ of B- or higher, lead by Noah Vonleh with a B+.

Is virtual Vonleh ready to take the next step in his career?

The starting rotation that we will begin with will be as follows:

PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Gerald Henderson
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu
PF: Ed Davis
C: Mason Plumlee

I know, I know, C.J. McCollum isn’t starting? Before we leave that hostile comment, let me explain that not only is 3J getting starter-like minutes (only 4 less than Henderson), but he will get his time as a starter later in this virtual season.

Just be patient, C.J. McCollum will get his time to shine.

With all of that said and done, let’s go ahead and simulate this 82-game NBA season up to the All-Star break and see what NBA 2k15 has in store for the Portland Trail Blazers. Any interesting stat-lines, injuries, or other important happenings will be taken note of and further discussed come mid-February.
See you in the future!

future


Below is a timeline showing the first half of this simulated 2015-2016 NBA season for the Portland Trail Blazers. Roster changes can be seen in brief on the timeline with a further explanation, with the corresponding number, below the photo.

The Portland Trail Blazers saw injuries to 3 of their big men in over the course of the first half of the season, hopefully not a sign of things to come.

(1) – Chris Kaman suffers a Dislocated Patella, out for 4-6 months. Meyers Leonard will be given more minutes at both the power forward & center positions. Allen Crabbe will be moved into the active roster from the reserves in exchange for the injured Kaman.

(2) – Mason Plumlee suffers a Hand Fracture, out for 4-6 weeks.  Meyers Leonard is moved to the starting lineup at the center position. Minutes are spread among Leonard, Noah Vonleh, Cliff Alexander, and Ed Davis. Luis Montero is moved into the active roster from the reserves in exchange for the injured Plumlee.

(3) – Noah Vonleh suffers a Hand Fracture, out for 2-4 weeks. Minutes are spread evenly among all the power forwards/centers on the active roster. Pat Connaughton is moved into the active roster from the reserves in exchange for the injured Vonleh.

(4) – Mason Plumlee returns from injury. Plumlee reclaims starting spot from Meyers Leonard. Leornard & Cliff Alexander now splitting power forward/center minutes. Pat Connaughton is moved back to reserves.


And just like that we’re in Toronto for the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend! The injury bug returns to Rip City with 3 of our bigs going down to various long-term injuries. This led to a constant shift in the lineup which can really mess with a team’s chemistry. At the halfway point of the season, the Trail Blazers are a lackluster 19-35, second worst in the Western Conference, just behind the Denver Nuggets (16-37). This, to be honest, isn’t too far-fetched as a possibility this upcoming season. During the All-Star break, I had declined a trade offer from the Los Angeles Lakers, per my previously mentioned no-trade rule. This trade is one that Portland may have actually accepted. The trade offered from the Lakers was Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass in exchange for Ed David and Meyers Leonard. Another interesting note is that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who Portland traded away shortly after selecting him in the 2015 NBA Draft, was a participant in the Slam Dunk Contest, falling to repeat winner Zach LaVine. Most interesting of all is that Damian Lillard was named an All-Star despite playing on the team with the second-worst record in the West. This was probably thanks to his career high averages in points (26.1), rebounds (3.6), assists (7.5), steals (1.0), and FG% (.442).

Now we look onward to the second half of the season. C.J. McCollum will now be inserted into the starting lineup at the shooting guard position, sending Henderson to the 6th-man role off the bench.


timeline2

(5) – Noah Vonleh returns from injury. Vonleh returns to his role player bench role, taking minutes away from Meyers Leonard and Cliff Alexander.

(6) – Al-Farouq Aminu suffers a Severe Ankle Sprain, out for 2-3 weeks. Gerald Henderson moves into the starting lineup at the small forward position. Maurice Harkless sees a large boost in minutes, now taking over the 6th-man role. Luis Montero is moved into the active roster in exchange for the injured Aminu.

(7) – C.J. McCollum suffers a Strained Achilles, out for 2-4 weeks. Gerald Henderson is now moved to the starting shooting guard position while Harkless sees his first time as a starter in Portland at the smal forward position. Minutes are spread out among Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Luis Montero, and Pat Connaughton, who is moved into the active roster in exchange for the injured McCollum.

(8) –  Al-Farouq Aminu returns from injury. Aminu takes a bench role while waiting for his injury to 100% heal. Pat Connaughton is moved back to the reserves.

(9) –  Al-Farouq Aminu 100% healthy. Takes the starting small forward spot back from Maurice Harkless. Minutes are shifted to Aminu as Harkless returns to his 6th-man role.
(10) – C.J. McCollum returns from injury. McCollum takes starting shooting guard spot back from Gerald Henderson, who is moved to the 6th-man role. Maurice Harkless sees a decrease in minutes, which are given to Henderson. Luis Montero is moved back to the reserves.

It was a development year for the Portland Trail Blazers who finish 12th in the Western Conference, ahead of only the LA Lakers, Utah Jazz, and Denver Nuggets. Despite the 34-48 record at season’s end, development was the objective for Portland & according to NBA 2k15 we definitely achieved that, but we’ll get to that later. Injuries hit a number of Blazers causing constant changes in the lineup. Damian Lillard continued his pre-All-Star Weekend success, posting career highs nearly across the board.  C.J. McCollum’s big season never really took that next huge step, perhaps credited to his injury that took him out for nearly a month right after being awarded the starting SG position. Pat Connaughton didn’t receive a whole lot of time out on the court, making an appearance in only 14 games, but he ended up being the most consistent 3-point shooter at .466%. The full season averages for each player can be found below. Let us know if you see anything that catches your eye!

Overall stats for the virtual 2015-2016 Portland Trail Blazers NBA season, simulated with NBA 2k15.


Before we move along to the development & final thoughts about this simulated virtual NBA 2015-2016 Portland Trail Blazers season, let’s go over the league awards and some surprising stats!

End of Season Awards:
MVP: Russell Westbrook- 25.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 10.4 ast, 2.6 stl.
Rookie of the Year: Emmanuel Mudiay- 15.8 ppg, 5.8 reb, 5.5 ast.
Sixth Man of the Year: Reggie Jackson- 11.9 ppg, 4.7 reb, 6.6 ast.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis- 23.5 ppg, 10.3 reb, 2.0 stl, 2.1 blk.
Most Improved Player: Otto Porter- 12.7 ppg, 6.4 reb, 2.5 ast, 1.6 stl, 0.9 blk.
Coach of the Year: David Blatt- 69-13 record w/ Cavaliers.

Surprising Stats:
Klay Thompson broke the single season record for three pointers made, set by teammate Stephen Curry, with 311 made in the 2015-2016 season.
Russell Westbrook had 19 triple-doubles over the course of the season, as many as Kobe Bryant has had in his 17 years in the NBA.
Chris Paul averaged only 9.0 assists per game, the lowest he’s averaged since 06-07 (8.9).
Despite Westbrook’s outrageous stats, it was Kevin Durant who led the league in scoring, averaging 27.8 points per game.
Damian Lillard is named to the All-NBA 3rd Team behind guards Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Eric Bledsoe.
Dwyane Wade posts career lows in scoring, averaging 12.7 points per game.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (1) defeat the Houston Rockets (4) in the NBA Finals after a game 7 thriller.
Portland Trail Blazers give up a few spots in the NBA Draft Lottery, predicted 8th and dropping to the 11th overall pick.


Now let’s get back to our focus; The Portland Trail Blazers. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again, this season was all about development for the Trail Blazers and man did these young guns grow as NBA athletes. Below are the total overall growth numbers at season’s end. The +(number) is their total growth while the listed overall number is their new, updated overall.

Development:
Damian Lillard: +4 (90 overall)
Ed Davis: +2 (80 overall)
Mason Plumlee: +3 (80 overall)
C.J. McCollum: +3 (77 overall)
Gerald Henderson: +2 (77 overall)
Cliff Alexander +4 (76 overall)
Noah Vonleh: +6 (75 overall)
Al-Farouq Aminu: +1 (75 overall)
Meyers Leonard: +4 (73 overall)
Allen Crabbe: +5 (72 overall)
Maurice Harkless +5 (72 overall)
Chris Kaman -4 (72 overall)
Phil Pressey +3 (71 overall)
Tim Frazier +1 (70 overall)
Luis Montero +2 (68 overall)
Pat Connaughton +1 (68 overall)

This was the main reason why I wanted to see this simulation done; so that we could see the promise & potential that this young squad has. Damian Lillard continues to take huge strides in his game, now solidifying himself among the elite names in the NBA.  Noah Vonleh takes the biggest jump on the team increasing his overall by 6, proving just how great that Nicolas Batum trade was. Meyers Leonard & Cliff Alexander each see a 4-point growth, while Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless both try to catch Vonleh with a 5 overall increase. Everyone else sees some kind of increase in their overall, aside from Chris Kaman, who saw an ‘old man/injury tax’ decrease of 4 on his overall. 

Noah Vonleh proves his worth as he sees the biggest jump in overall as the 2015-2016 season comes to an end.

What does this all mean for the real life upcoming NBA season? Maybe nothing. Could this be a possible indicator of what’s to come for the Portland Trail Blazers? Maybe so. The reason for this simulated season was to finally get some of the itch of Blazers basketball taken care of while having some fun and seeing what the artificial intelligence of NBA 2k15 has to say about our new-look roster. While I don’t believe that NBA 2k15 could ever accurately predict an NBA season (19 trip-dubs for Russell Westbrook? Yeah right), I think there are some things that we can take away from this.
Let’s talk about the negative first. To be completely honest, I don’t see Portland beating out the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference this season. Call me crazy, a fake, or whatever else you may, but I feel that Portland is set for a 33 win season, if that. However, if there is one person that can prove me wrong, it’s Damian Lillard and his ‘never say die’ attitude.
On the positive end, the individual growth among nearly every player on this team was incredible. Also, I can’t imagine that we will go through this many long-term injuries though, knock on wood, Portland does have a history of such happening. If we do end up finishing this low, it only means a better draft pick for us next year when we prepare to pick and choose who we keep & who we let walk while fight through another chaotic free agency period.

Could this be a one year project? Does Neil Olshey have bigger plans to move players around before/during the 2015-2016 NBA season? Will we see a very different rotation than what I was using for this simulated season? I don’t know.
But if there is one thing I do know, it’s that I cannot wait for the real 2015-2016 NBA season to tip-off on October 28 against the New Orleans Pelicans. No offense to the folks at NBA 2k, but there’s nothing quite like real live Portland Trail Blazers basketball.

Portland Trail Blazers basketball kicks off against Anthony Davis & the New Orleans Pelicans on October 28 at 7:00pm at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon!

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