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Portland Trail Blazers 2021-22 NBA season preview: Roster moves, starting lineup projection and training camp storylines to follow

All eyes will be on Damian Lillard to start the year in Portland
All eyes will be on Damian Lillard to start the year in Portland
Tyler Rucker
ANALYST

After an offseason that featured a roller coaster of emotions, the Portland Trail Blazers look ready to roll for the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season. All the attention will be on Damian Lillard and how the Blazers start out the season under new head coach Chauncey Billups.

Following an offseason in which Lillard expressed his desire to be traded from the Trail Blazers, it seems as if the friction has calmed down...for now. It will be important for Portland to start out the year with some positive momentum, or else things could start to heat up again when it comes to Damian Lillard and trade rumors.

That could be a realistic possibility for Portland as they start out the year with four of their first five games being at home. After having some big preseason expectations last year, the Blazers had an up-and-down regular season, finishing 42-30 and earning the 6th seed in the Western Conference.

Eventually, longtime head coach Terry Stotts was let go as a "fresh" start that was viewed as a needed move.

Portland Trail Blazers' roster moves so far in the 2021-22 NBA season

The Portland Trail Blazers have added Larry Nance Jr.
The Portland Trail Blazers have added Larry Nance Jr.

While there haven't been a lot of "massive" moves for the Portland Trail Blazers this summer, they still made an impressive addition to their roster. In a three-team trade, Portland acquired versatile big man Larry Nance Jr. from the Cleveland Cavaliers. For an offseason that was viewed as "quiet" around the NBA, the addition of Larry Nance Jr. is a sensational get for this Portland franchise.

The 28-year-old big man has become one of the more underrated rotation assets in the entire NBA and he should become a fantastic piece off the bench for the Portland Trail Blazers.

ESPN Sources: Cleveland’s acquiring Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen in three-way sign and trade with Portland. Bulls get Derrick Jones Jr., POR’s lottery protected future 1st and Cavs’ future second-rounder. POR gets Larry Nance Jr. twitter.com/wojespn/status…

Portland would go on to add a number of pieces to the puzzle that weren't "sexy" by any means, but they have the potential to be valued additions. Veteran big man Cody Zeller was brought in as some needed depth behind starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Zeller comes over from the Charlotte Hornets and averaged 9.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game last year in just 20.9 minutes.

The Portland Trail Blazers also went to work solidifying their backcourt. They re-signed Norman Powell to a five-year, $90 million contract. Veteran guard Ben McLemore was brought in, as well as Tony Snell. A number of players from last year have moved on as well, including Carmelo Anthony, Enes Kanter, and Zach Collins.

Important storylines for Portland Trail Blazers' training camp

Can Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum get the Portland Trail Blazers off to a fast start?
Can Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum get the Portland Trail Blazers off to a fast start?

#1 How long will Damian Lillard stay Patient?

It's going to be one of the most notable storylines to monitor throughout the first couple of months of the regular season. If this Portland Trail Blazers team struggles out of the gate, how will Damian Lillard respond? Will he remain patient and try to see if Portland can right the ship? Or will Lillard become restless and try to maneuver his way out?

Portland has struggled to put together a roster that can help Lillard reach the next step. If results don't start to show in a hurry, he could be a player that will be on the move.

#2 Can Chauncey Billups get results quickly?

Chauncey Billups is the new man in charge in Portland
Chauncey Billups is the new man in charge in Portland

One of the biggest "additions" for the Portland Trail Blazers has been the announcement of a new man in charge. After spending several years as a rumored candidate around the league, former NBA great Chauncey Billups is finally getting his chance to be a head coach.

Plenty will have their eyes on how Billups handles the immediate "pressure" of trying to make sure his superstar point guard remains happy. If Billups can get this Portland Trail Blazers team off to a hot start, it would allow the tensions in the building to cool off a bit. If not, Chauncey could be in for a rough couple of months to start the season.

#3 Can the depth of this team step up?

Nassir Little is a name to watch as a surprise contributor for the Portland Trail Blazers this year.
Nassir Little is a name to watch as a surprise contributor for the Portland Trail Blazers this year.

While we know that the starting lineup is expected to look pretty similar to last year, this Trail Blazers team is going to need some pieces off the bench to step up. There are a number of intriguing pieces off the bench that could help Portland in a big way if they take strides forward in their development.

One of the top names to keep an eye on in Nassir Little. After the Portland Trail Blazers selected Little 25th in the 2019 NBA Draft, the expectation was that Little would need some time to develop into a consistent player on both sides of the floor. Now is the time for Little to step up.

Keep an eye on Anfernee Simons as well, who has shown flashes over the years as a potential weapon off the bench.

Predicted starting lineup for the Portland Trail Blazers' heading into 2021-22 NBA season

It would seem as if this Portland starting lineup is pretty much set in stone. The only thing to monitor would be the power forward position. While Robert Covington could get an early nod in the starting lineup, don't rule out Larry Nance Jr. getting some looks with the starting five at some point.

Point Guard - Damian Lillard | Shooting Guard - CJ McCollum | Small Forward - Norman Powell | Power Forward - Robert Covington | Center - Jusuf Nurkic

Heard you wanted some more practice #content https://t.co/kkyVX6gZ6r

Edited by Parimal

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