Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Marc Stein [Print without images]

Friday, December 6, 2013
Scouts Takes: Blazers belong in West elite

By Marc Stein

Western Conference scout on the sustainability of Portland's hot start:


"Will it continue? Why not? Why can't they fight for a top-four spot [in the West]? They've proven to me they belong in that first four or five category.

"Last season, they were counting on their starting lineup to score something like 82 points per game, but they've got a bench now. I love the addition of Mo Williams, and Robin Lopez gives them a true weakside shot-blocker that puts LaMarcus Aldridge at his true position. [Damian] Lillard has been exceptional, and LaMarcus is dominant. He's more engaged than we've ever seen before, and I think that's probably because they're winning and because he knows he has a bench behind him. He's never really had that before.

"I won't argue that their strength of schedule hasn't been the toughest early, but they went East and won games on the road. That's hard to do; I don't care who you play.

"So I'd say I'm kind of surprised, but I wouldn't say I'm tremendously surprised. They deserve to be in that first-five category. I think Portland is going to stay in that 1-through-5 bracket [in the West], then 6-through-10 is another bracket."