DamianLillardFinale

Three Sure-Fire Predictions For The Portland Trail Blazers

Welcome to the offseason Portland Trail Blazer fans! While 16 other franchises anticipate the upcoming playoffs, fans here in Portland sit and anticipate the summer to come. There is so much talk about what may happen this offseason to improve this young team. Even though there were bright spots to this season, the excitement of the unknown will start to consume this market.

While everything up to this point is speculation, I have 3 sure-fire predictions to keep an eye on leading up to next season.

1 – The Trail Blazers WILL NOT draft in the lottery. Even though the Blazers finished the season in the 10th slot in the lottery, this team will not draft at that spot. Having such a young roster, the last thing they need is another unproven rookie on this roster. The Blazers desperately need to pursue a rim protecting big guy and the number one way to do that is through trade. The Blazers have a real lack of assets to make a needle moving trade happen; the 10th pick may just be that asset.

2 – Damian Lillard WILL develop beyond expectations. Gary Payton has been quoted saying that he is going to spend time with Lillard this summer working on his defense. Adding more defensive prowess would really help the team as a whole. That aspect of his game improving, along with the natural maturity and leadership that will develop after that first year of seasoning, will be huge. I expect him to come out strong next year and really compete for a place on the Western Conference All-Star team.

3 – There will be A TON of personnel turnover this summer. It is always fun to see news faces and see how they can contribute to the team. This summer will be even more fun. I expect to see at least 6 new players on this team at the opening tip next season. J.J. Hickson, Elliot Williams, Nolan Smith, Luke Babbitt, Jared Jeffries and Sasha Pavlovic are all as good as gone. Throw in a trade or two and we could see half of next year's roster be first year Blazers.

Overall, this season had its successes and its failures. General Manager Neil Olshey holds the keys to the team for the summer and it will be very interesting to see how he uses the cap space and limited assets at his disposal to improve this team going forward. Olshey's game plan, along with the younger guys’ offseason improvements, could make for a very fun 2013-2014 season. I'm already excited for tip off!

Garrett Thornton is on Twitter. Follow him at @PortlandGarrett

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