On the surface, it would appear this offseason brought little to no help to the Trail Blazers amid the NBA’s whirlwind summer of blockbuster trades and free agent acquisitions.
Aside from a salary-cap motivated move of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn, and the drafting of 19-year-old center Zach Collins and Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan, the Blazers are largely the same group that went 41-41 and finished eighth in the Western Conference.
The Las Vegas betting line on Trail Blazers wins for the 2017-2018 season is 42.5 games, which would place them eighth in the West:
1. Golden State (67.5)
2. Houston (55.5)
3. San Antonio (54.5)
4. Oklahoma City (51.5)
5. Minnesota (48.5)
6. Denver (45.5)
7. LA Clippers (44.5)
8. Portland (42.5)
Of course, Las Vegas has been wrong before about the Blazers (remember 2015-2016 when the Blazers won 44 games after Vegas set the line at 26.5?), and it’s easy to get swept up in the headlines from an offseason that saw Chris Paul move to Houston, Paul George to Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and Paul Millsap to Denver.
But behind the sexy headlines and tumultuous turnover, the Blazers have been doing what has become a hallmark of this franchise: relying on improvement from within.
With that in mind, CSN this week will unveil five reasons the Blazers this season could exceed 42 wins and be better than people think:
Today: The return of a healthy Ed Davis.
Last season, Trail Blazers’ big man Ed Davis reached a point in his season that he is almost embarrassed to reveal.
Standing under a basket, he couldn’t make five consecutive layins with his dominant hand. The reason? Shooting pain emanating from his left shoulder.
“Just mentally, what that does to you,’’ Davis said Monday. “I tried playing through it, but it was tough.’’
He had a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and in March he decided to have season-ending surgery after appearing in 46 games (12 starts). He finished with averages of 4.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 17 minutes a game.
He had become a shadow of the energy-infusing and often game-changing play he showed in the 2015-2016 season, when he became a crowd favorite and one of the NBA’s top interior reserves.
During the 2015-2016 season, Davis finished second in the NBA among reserves in rebounding and offensive rebounds behind Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter. His 599 rebounds off the bench that season are a Trail Blazers' record.
All the while, the 6-foot-10 lefty was an emotional spark who embodied a team that refused to be outworked, or back down from more talented teams, and one of the reasons he was named the team's Maurice Lucas Award recipient.
“I feel a lot of people forgot how much I helped the team in Portland that year,’’ Davis said. “I want to get back to that.’’
There doesn’t appear to be anything hindering his quest. Next week, when the Blazers open training camp, Davis said doctors have cleared him for full contact in practice.
“I feel great. I’m cleared for the first day, and I can do everything,’’ Davis said.
With a repaired shoulder, and a feeling of something to prove – both to redeem last season and to garner interest for a new contract after the season – Davis could be one of the factors that lead to another Rip City Revival.
“Whenever anybody is in a contract year, you want to play well and be rewarded, but for me, it’s more for the fact that I didn’t play well last year,’’ Davis said. “I felt like I could have brought more to the table; it was a roller-coaster year. But I learned a lot. It was a humbling experience not being able to play game you love. So I’m excited to be back out there on the court and continue the journey.’’