When assessing the 2014-2015 Portland squad, it is difficult to pick out an X-factor in the traditional sense. Usually, the X-factor is a player whose role is somewhat unknown, but with this veteran squad, the roles are already ironed out for the most part. There are a few areas where question marks remain (Who fills Ryan Nicholas’ minutes? Who handles the ball other than Wintering and Pressley? Who will step up and be the defensive stopper this team needs? Who will emerge to fill the leadership void left by Nicholas?).Even with those questions looming, compared to the question marks last season at a majority of key positions, this year’s team is much more established.
That all being said, I think the biggest X-factor for the Pilots has to be Alec Wintering. It’s no secret that the WCC has traditionally been a guard dominated league and a lot of seasons Portland’s quality at the position has been underwhelming. Last season Wintering proved that he could handle WCC competition finishing second in the conference in assist to turnover ratio. But the ceiling for Wintering is much higher than a distributor.
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When looking back at the most successful era under Coach Reveno, Pilot great TJ Campbell was at the helm. TJ could handle the ball, shoot, pass and was tenacious on defense. Yes he had lots of help around him; shooting, versatility, solid offensive options in the post, but Wintering has similar skill sets around him. Wintering does need to do a better job of finishing at the rim, and if he increased his scoring from the 7.7 ppg last season that could be a big difference maker for the pilots, who already possess multiple other scoring options (van der Mars, Bailey, Pressley, Sharp, etc.).
If Wintering can keep his assist/turnover ratio at a similar level, while upping offensive production, and providing a few steals here and there (he averaged 1.5 per game last season) Portland could really surprise a few people this season.