No. 11: Portland Trail Blazers
Last Season: 51-31
6th place in West; Lost 4-1 to Memphis in Round 1
For the better part of two seasons, the Portland Trail Blazers relied on a well-balanced starting five, and it paid off: Portland notched its first playoff series win since 2000 and earned a spot near the top of the Western Conference standings. But when shooting guard Wesley Matthews suffered a ruptured Achilles in March, it broke up the quintet for good.
After the Blazers struggled down the stretch and lost in the opening round of the playoffs, three starters -- Matthews, star LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez -- left via free agency, and a fourth, Nicolas Batum, was traded. Now Portland embarks on a new era, attempting to build with young talent around the last man standing from the starting five, All-Star point guard Damian Lillard.
Coming off a surprising season in which they won 54 games and beat the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, the Blazers were unable to maintain their good fortune in terms of health. Lopez missed six weeks with two broken bones in his hand, and both Aldridge, who delayed thumb surgery until after the season, and Batum, who had a bad wrist, played through injuries.
Still, Portland was on its way to a 41-19 record, good for third in the West and with the conference's second-best point differential (plus-5.3 ppg), when Matthews went down shortly after halftime on March 5. The injury thrust deadline addition Arron Afflalo into a lineup that lacked the same cohesion of the previous starters. Add in a variety of minor injuries to role players, including Afflalo, and the Blazers went 10-12 the remainder of the regular season.
Portland was guaranteed the fourth seed in the West by virtue of winning the Northwest Division. However, the Memphis Grizzlies got home-court advantage for their playoff matchup and won both games at home and Game 3 at the Moda Center. Behind contributions from young reserves Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum, the Blazers won at home to extend the series, but the Grizzlies finished them off in five games.