This exact time last year the Portland Trail Blazers were 40-1 bet to win the NBA Championship. This year Vegas betting odds have them at 26.5. That’s not a championship winning odd, that’s the over/under on wins this regular season. 26.5 games.

Predicted to win 26.5 games this season, Portland is only ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves (25.5), the Denver Nuggets (23.5), and the Philadelphia 76ers (17.5). If you’re big on betting in the NBA, this is a bet that I would avoid at all costs. This team, at this point in time, is almost fully dependent on the success of Damian Lillard. Realistically, 26.5 sounds like a fair number to me, however if I have to take a side, stressing the words “have to”, I’d take the over.

Being honest to yourself going into this season is going to save you a lot of heartache. Unless somebody comes out of training camp with the 2015-2016 Most Improved Player award already locked in, Portland will not be participating in NBA playoffs. With that said, am I ready to say that the Trail Blazers are the fourth worst team in the NBA? You will never hear me say that, and there are three simple reasons why:

  1. High potential players with a specific niche on the team.
  2. Team chemistry.
  3. Damian Lillard

Mason Plumlee #24, Maurice Harkless #4, Noah Vonleh #21, and CJ McCollum #3 exchange high-fives during a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings.

If you’ve been following Blazer Gang’s Welcome to Rip City articles, you probably have noticed a common theme among all offseason signings: they’re young, athletic, and have high potential. You could take any one player on this Trail Blazers roster, Chris Kaman aside (sorry oldie), and tell me that they’ll win Most  Most Improved player this year and I would have no problem believing you. From the youngest, 19-year-old Cliff Alexander, to the oldest, 27-year-old Gerald Henderson, every player has a good chance to bring that award home come the end of the season. Best of all, these aren’t just a bunch of young rejects from across the Association; these are players that have high trade values and some of the best potential in all of professional basketball, Noah Vonleh a prime example.

During their trip the San Diego, the team hit the beach! Don't call it a "relaxing" day at the beach though, Pat Connaughton will let you know that it was a long day of working out!

Team chemistry may very well be at an all-time high for the Trail Blazers organization. Whether it was due to conflicting personalities or severe off the court issues, I’ve never seen the member of the Trail Blazers mesh together so well in my life. After an offseason spent practicing a full month prior to training camp, taking a team trip to San Diego, and making hilarious videos at the mall, these guys look more like friends and family than anything. Terry Stotts and Neil Olshey were very specific in who they signed this offseason with chemistry clearly in mind; an undervalued attribute in basketball. All of these young guys have the same goal in mind, to improve as individually and to succeed as a team. Everyone is moving towards these common goals and man are they hungry for it.

With the offseason departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, the keys to the Portland Trail Blazers are all Damian Lillard's.

Finally, Damian Lillard. Need I say more? Lillard had moments where he borrowed the Trail Blazer car keys from LaMarcus Aldridge over the last three years. With Aldridge now a member of the San Antonio Spurs, the car is all Lillard’s and he has a deep roster of high-potential players to take with him. Look around for some wood, you’ll need it for what I’ll be saying next. Barring an injury to Damian Lillard (go knock on that wood) it would be hard to imagine that the Trail Blazers would end the season as the fourth worst team in the NBA. With a run-n-gun team where Lillard is the man, we may say some Russell Westbrook-esque performances out of the two-time NBA All-Star.
“We couldn’t have won it without him.”
Expect to hear that often this season, in regards to Dame.

It’s hard to say for sure whether Portland will find themselves over the 26.5 win mark this season or not. There are variables left and right with this presently-questionable Trail Blazers team. But if I were to make a bet I’d be taking the over because of those three reasons. I mean, are you really going to doubt Damian Lillard?

Didn’t think so.

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