Eli Lake and I agree that the Portland Trailblazers are the only team that could beat the Lakers in the Western Conference in the coming NBA season. The main reason for this, as I see it, is that basically it’s extremely unlikely that anyone can beat the Lakers—they’re really good. For another team to be better, something weird would have to happen. And Portland is basically the best chance for that to happen.
Brandon Roy is 25 years old; LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez, and Travis Outlaw are 24, Greg Oden is 21, Nicolas Batum is 20. That’s six rotation players who are young enough that it’s plausible to imagine them taking a substantial step forward. And if four or five of them do take simultaneous substantial steps forward, then the team is going to be much better. And it’ll be a much better version of a team that was already very good. Notwithstanding their poor playoff performance, last year’s Blazers has the second best point differential in the West. Now is it likely that four or five of those six guys will all take simultaneous substantial steps forward while veteran guys like Joe Pryzbilla and Andre Miller stay level? No, it’s not especially likely. That’d be a stroke of good luck.
But it does seem to me to be within the realm of possibility. And it seems a lot more plausible to me than the idea that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are going to start playing better in their thirties.