The Portland Trail Blazers, who celebrated their 50th year as an NBA franchise last season, produced an impressive performance in the bubble. Clinching the 8th seed, the Blazers set up a showdown with eventual champions LA Lakers but were comfortably beaten 4-1.
With the new season just over a week away, Portland are set to battle in another congested Western Conference. Led by guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Blazers fans will hope to see their team make a deep run in the postseason.
Portland Trail Blazers 2020-21 NBA Season Preview:
One of the most complete Blazers rosters in recent times will hope to return to the Conference Finals.
The Portland Trail Blazers made a miraculous run to the Western Conference Finals in 2019, highlighted by Damian Lillard's walk-off three to sink the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of their first round matchup. It was the point guard who had to will his team back to the playoffs last season, as the franchise suffered one of their worst injury-hit years.
After a positive offseason, the Blazers are widely tipped to gain home court advantage when it comes to the playoffs. Their roster has more quality and depth than in the season when they reached the Conference Finals.
This time around, bringing in Robert Covington, Enes Kanter and Derrick Jones Jr. is likely to reduce the pressure on Lillard and help the Blazers become a top-10 defensive team.
The Blazers also have CJ McCollum, who combined with Damian Lillard to form one of the most feared guard pairings in the league. Moreover, they have Carmelo Anthony, who at the age of 35 averaged 15 points and six rebounds last season.
Portland Trail Blazers 2019-20 NBA Season Record
Regular Season: 35-39
Western Conference: 8th
2019-20 NBA Season: Playoff first round.
F/C Robert Covington, C Enes Kanter, F Derrick Jones Jr..
The Portland Trail Blazers look set to be in a win-now position. The acquisition of two flexible forwards in Covington and Jones Jr. will provide back up to the Blazers All-Star guards in defense and also provide different options to the franchise in offense. Covington is an adept out-ball on the wing who puts up a lot of threes, and Jones Jr. is an exciting rim attacker.
Although center Jusuf Nurkic has become almost irreplaceable like Lillard over an entire season, the signing of fan-favorite Enes Kanter was a shrewd move by the franchise. Portland Trailblazers will now be able to cope with Nurkic sitting out or even missing a run of games because of injury and relying on Kanter as well as Zach Collins at the five.
Portland Trail Blazers' Predicted Starting Lineup
G Damian Lillard G C.J. McCollum F Gary Trent Jr. F Robert Covington C Jusuf Nurkic.
Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney Hood, Enes Kanter, Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, Carmelo Anthony, Nassir Little, Harry Giles, CJ Elleby.
For the Portland Trail Blazers, the 2020-21 NBA Season presents an opportunity to make up for lost time and make a fresh start with a fully-fit roster. Losing Nurkic to injury last season hurt the chances of Portland Trail Blazers, but they now have considerable depth at the center position.
Lillard and McCollum carrying the load offensively has hampered the Portland Trail Blazers at the other end, as the two have lacked energy and concentration at times. By bringing in Covington and Jones Jr., the Portland Trail Blazers have improved their forward rotation, which should in turn help the side's defensive efficiency rating.
Covington averaged 12 points and 6.6 rebounds last year. More importantly for the Portland Trail Blazers, Covington produced 115 steals at 1.6 per game, which was the third most in the league. He is one of the league's best defenders who could be useful in covering the guards.
Jones Jr., on the other hand, has notable experience at the top of zone defenses.
At the offensive end, the Portland Trail Blazers have one All-Star and two players who have the ability to join him this year.
Lillard averaged an incredible 30 points and eight assists per game while his partner at the top averaged 22 points. Combining these two with Nurkic, who could run the pick-and-roll perfectly with Lillard, would give the Blazers a fighting chance in the West.
However, as already mentioned before, a lot will depend on the fitness of the three players. If Lillard or McCollum get injured, it will be extremely difficult for the Portland Trail Blazers to find a ready replacement.
Prediction for Portland Trail Blazers' 2020-21 NBA Season
Blazers' fans will be excited to see how deep their squad can go in the postseason.
After their showing in the bubble, the franchise will be enthused about challenging for a fourth or fifth-placed finish in the West. The Blazers have got a starting lineup in their prime who can outscore any team in the league on their day.
Along with their strong offensive unit, the Portland Trail Blazers have some defensive-minded pieces who could help the franchise should they face injury issues this year.
The problems may happen in the playoffs, given the strength of the Western Conference. Although Lillard is one of the most prolific players in the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers do not have a second All-Star player should they encounter a 7-game series against one of the Los Angeles outfits.
However, if McCollum or Nurkic are able to find another gear and match the undoubted quality of Damian Lillard, the Blazers could have a serious chance of repeating their fabulous 2018-19 NBA playoff run.