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Insider

Are the Blazers legit contenders?

12/4/2013
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Okay, I'll admit it: I didn't pick the Portland Trail Blazers to make the playoffs. In fact, I thought things would go so badly in Portland that the Blazers' Terry Stotts would be the first coach fired this season. Instead, Stotts was named Western Conference coach of the month for November.

So I am willing to eat crow. Lots of it.

My one saving grace is that no one -- and I mean, no one -- could have predicted a 15-3 start for the Blazers. Not even LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard would have predicted that Portland would be tied with San Antonio for the best record in the West at this point.

But enough looking back. Now that the Blazers have emerged, how good are they?

Can they keep up this pace? Can they secure a top-four seed and gain home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs? Are they legitimate threats to represent the West in the Finals? Can a team that added only one new starter -- Robin Lopez -- go from 33 wins to challenging for the league crown?