Season preview: Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2018-19 season will be remembered for an unforgettable series-winning triple and a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
Damian Lillard’s shot in Game 5 of the opening round of the playoffs not just ended the series against Oklahoma City Thunder, it ended their current run as a team, as their brass decided to initiate a rebuild during the offseason that followed.
Now, with a good chunk of their core returning and a couple of solid additions set to join the rotation, and with the death of the Golden State Warriors dynasty, Portland has a legit chance to make another run to the Western Conference Finals.
STAYING: Zach Collins, Rodney Hood, Skal Labissiere, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.
ADDED: Kent Bazemore (Atlanta), Keljin Blevins (Montana State), Moses Brown (UCLA), Troy Caupain (Orlando), Pau Gasol (Milwaukee), Mario Hezonja (New York), Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest), Nassir Little (North Carolina), London Perrantes (Limoges), Anthony Tolliver (Minnesota) and Hassan Whiteside (Miami).
GONE: Al-Farouq Aminu (Orlando), Seth Curry (Dallas), Moe Harkless (LA Clippers), Enes Kanter (Boston), Jake Layman (Minnesota), Meyers Leonard (Miami) and Evan Turner (Atlanta).
STRENGTHS: In Damian Lillard, they have one of the biggest stars in the league … He could easily be an MVP candidate next season … With Klay Thompson injured and CJ McCollum healthy, the best backcourt in the league may now reside in Portland … Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol are pretty solid short-term replacements until Jusuf Nurkic fully recovers … Terry Stotts has been great to adapt new additions quickly … They have a knack for outperforming expectations … Outside shooting should be a strength.
WEAKNESSES: Not a lot of scoring power besides Lillard and McCollum … The power position looks especially weak after the departure of Al-Farouq Aminu … Except for their power duo, the Blazers haven’t been great developing young players … They are really, really thin at point guard … Supporting cast overall is quite underwhelming … Lillard has some heroic playoff moments, but also a bunch of off shooting nights in the postseason … A disgruntled Whiteside could be an issue in the locker room … They’re going to need some remarkable progress from young players like Anfernee Simons, Mario Hezonja or Zach Collins to have an above-average second unit.
PREDICTION: 3rd in the Northwest Division, 6th in the Western Conference.