Season Record: 53-39, 3rd in the Western Conference
Head Coach: Terry Stotts
Most Frequent Starting Five (38 Games): (G) Damian Lillard – (G) CJ McCollum – (F) Maurice Harkless – (F) Al-Farouq Aminu – (C) Jusuf Nurkic
4 February 2019 – Traded Wade Baldwin, Nik Stauskas, a 2021 2nd round draft pick and a 2023 2nd round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Rodney Hood.
7 February 2019 – Traded Caleb Swanigan to the Sacramento Kings for Skal Labissière.
13 February 2019 – Signed Enes Kanter to a contract for the rest of the season.
LILLARD WITH THE GAME WINNER OVER PAUL GEORGE!!!!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!! COLD BLOODED!!!!!! HE FINISHES WITH 50 POINTS!!!!! pic.twitter.com/5VYg69q8zE
— #BusinessAintBoomin (@ftbeard_17) April 24, 2019
Damian Lillard has proved himself to be one of the NBA’s premier point guards. While guards like Russell Westbrook fill the stat sheet, Lillard continually leads his team to greater heights.
Lillard was named to the All-NBA Second Team, an All-Star, and awarded the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2019. He may not have won the Championship, but he doesn’t seem far away.
Did you know he’s quite the rapper too?
The Bosnian Beast Shines
It was difficult for Nurkic to lose his role with the Nuggets to a rising Nikola Jokic. When he joined the Trail Blazers, it wasn’t an easy adjustment.
However, 2018 debuted a new Nurkic. Confident, aggressive, and newly adept from the mid-range, the Bosnian Beast grew into the third star that the Blazers were looking for.
Always the Bridesmaid
Down 17 at one point in Game 4, Golden State rallied back to send things to OT where they completed the sweep against the Blazers.
The Warriors are headed back to the NBA Finals for a fifth consecutive year. https://t.co/qxmaJo9MIZ
— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) May 21, 2019
The Trail Blazers have been on an upward path since they committed to Lillard as their star. They were fantastic during the regular season and looked impressive during the playoffs.
After a fantastic ending to their Conference Semi-Finals series with the Thunder, they were quickly swept by the Golden State Warriors.
Shock for Nurkic
Trail Blazers fans show Jusuf Nurkic support as he gets carted off after suffering gruesome left leg injury ? pic.twitter.com/ZsNThlRq9j
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 26, 2019
We just spoke about Nurkic’s fantastic rise, so what could derail that ascent?
After suffering a gruesome leg injury in overtime against the Nets, all of Nurkic’s gains were halted. What he accomplished won’t be undone, but without him, the Blazer’s once again failed to make it over the hump.
On the positive side, Nurkic is recovering well and expects to be back better than ever. There is yet to be a timetable on his return.
Glue Players Shine
If players aren’t hitting threes or flying in for tremendous dunks, very little attention is paid to them. However, Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless proved there’s more to it than the box score.
Versatile defenders, capable finishers, and all-out hustle players, both were essential to the success of the Blazers during the 18-19 season.
Due to their cap situation, Harkless and Aminu find themselves out of Portland to begin the 2019-2020 season. Portland will sorely miss their contributions.
With a single pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Blazers had a lot of ways to go. They chose to shore up their wing position with the selection of forward Nassir Little.
— NBA (@NBA) October 9, 2019
Little will probably bring back memories for Trail Blazers fans, as he is quite reminiscent of Gerald Wallace. Little is a force on the defensive end, which will benefit them with the departure of Al-Farouq Aminu.
Little is still raw on the offensive end, but his athleticism will help garner him game time. He is not a strong shooter but will have plenty of time to work on that facet of his game.
The Trail Blazers are more than set at the wing position, so Little will likely be relegated to garbage time for the Trail Blazers.
The Portland Trail Blazers, disappointingly, do not have a G-League affiliate to call their own. Last season, the Blazers sent players down to the Texas Legends and the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario.
Depending on how close the Blazers want to keep Little to home will determine where he finds playing time.
— Blazers Nation (@BlazersNationCP) October 5, 2019
Going on 39 years old most will expect little from the older Gasol brother. However, Pau’s previous season was marred with injury, severely undercutting his production.
Despite his advanced age, Gasol has never averaged less than ten points per game in a season where he’s appeared in more than thirty matches. Bet on Gasol’s production being greater than expected.
— NBA (@NBA) January 14, 2018
Whiteside is coming off of his least productive year since he returned to the NBA in 2014. As the year went on, he found himself outside of coach Erik Spoelstra’s plans.
Now partnered with offensively capable guards in Lillard and McCollum, Whiteside can go back to his role as a rim-runner and glass-crashing energy player.
Kent Bazemore’s three-point shooting in 2017:
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) February 9, 2017
Bazemore looks for a fresh start with the Trail Blazers. A veteran wing player with a passable shooting stroke, Bazemore will bring value to the Blazers’ reserve unit.
MARIO HEZONJA WITH THE ?? DUNK AND STEP OVER GIANNIS pic.twitter.com/8ejcI7HIvx
— SB Nation (@SBNation) December 1, 2018
Mario Hezonja is coming off of a decent but underwhelming season with the New York Knicks. While many hoped he would break out, he struggled to find his rhythm.
Hezonja will need to improve his shooting from deep if he hopes to keep his value on the court. With less responsibility as an individual playmaker, Hezonja may be able to shine in a reduced role.
Anthony Tolliver: Good at shooting three-pointers. pic.twitter.com/k4BXORtDgF
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) September 30, 2018
Anthony Tolliver brings a team one thing for certain, three-point shooting. A 37.6% career three-point shooter, Tolliver’s value will be based on his ability to convert on open shots efficiently.
— Emmanuel Laurin (@manu_laurin) October 7, 2019
Hoard is a fantastic two-way prospect for the Portland Trail Blazers. While he lacks an refined offensive skillset, his energy and athleticism are already at the NBA level. The Blazers hope to foster his development.
Moses Brown making Nurkic look short pic.twitter.com/wgPR15uXSw
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) September 30, 2019
Brown needs to get stronger and find some explosiveness, but he has an intriguing body. Already massive by NBA standards, Brown needs to refine his game and body to make an impact. He already has the right attitude for battling in the paint.
Cincinnati ➡️ NBA
— Greg Youncofski (@CoachGregUCLA) October 2, 2018
Combo-guard Troy Caupain has a lot to showcase with his game. At 6’4 he has great size while being versatile on both ends of the court. Caupain’s ability to fill the stat sheet is more than welcome by the Blazers.
???London Perrantes quitte Limoges pour rejoindre Cholet ? https://t.co/tsuGKDsPiq
— Basket le Mag (@basketlemag) November 18, 2018
London Perrantes certainly lives up to his nickname. “California Cool” is a heady playmaker, despite lacking key athletic abilities. He is a capable lead guard, who will have to prove valuable offensively.
Blessed beyond measure…thank you @trailblazers for this opportunity!
— Keljin Blevins (@KBlevs02) September 30, 2019
Keljin Blevins from small Montana State, has found an opportunity with the Trail Blazers. Offensively raw but an athletic specimen, Blevins presents surprising potential for a four-year senior.
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Damian Lillard||CJ McCollum||Rodney Hood||Zach Collins||Hassan Whiteside|
|Anfernee Simons||Kent Bazemore||Mario Hezonja||Anthony Tolliver||Pau Gasol|
|London Perrantes||Gary Trent Jr.||Nassir Little||Skal Labissiere||Jusuf Nurkic (injured)|
|Troy Caupain||Keljin Blevins||Jaylen Hoard (Two-Way)||Moses Brown|
With a new extension in place, the Blazers are expecting Damian Lillard to make his case as an MVP-calibre player.
They seemed ready to take the jump into championship contention, but the Warriors took those aspirations from them in a late sweep.
While the Blazers are still contenders, they’ll need to make an unexpected jump in order to challenge the best of the West.
Coming off of a 53 win season, most future bets would bank on the Blazers meeting the same mark.
Unfortunately with the improvement at the top of the West, they’ve fallen well below last years total in expected wins. They open the season at an over/under of 47.5 wins.
|Sportsbook||Portland Trail Blazers|
The Blazers have a lot to prove with their new and improved roster. While they’ve certainly grown stronger, their new pieces must acclimate quickly.
They’re unlikely to challenge for the top of the West, with the likes of the Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, and Warriors clearly their superior.
|Sportsbook||Portland Trail Blazers|
The Trail Blazers return as one of the Western Conferences top sides. With Damian Lillard signing a new contract, the odds of their championship success have certainly gone up.
The Blazers are currently on the outside looking in at the top ten championship-caliber teams according to the oddsmakers.
While injuries currently hurt their chances, look for some quick growth as the season wears on.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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