The Portland Trail Blazers finally reached the Western Conference Finals last season but were quickly defeated by the powerhouse Golden State Warriors. This year, they return one of the best backcourts in the entire league and welcome back Jusuf Nurkic from injury. Zack Collins will return to the lineup as the projected starting power forward and two trades look to significantly benefit the team. Kent Bazemore was swapped for Evan Turner and Hassan Whiteside was brought in as Miami was looking to unload salary to sign Jimmy Butler.
|Point Guard PG|
|Shooting Guard SG|
|Small Forward SF|
|Power Forward PF|
|Point Guard PG||
|Shooting Guard SG||
|Small Forward SF|
|Power Forward PF|
Damian Lillard remains one of the more underrated point guards in the league despite his best efforts to prove that he’s a superstar. There’s no question he’s the leader of the team and will be looking to the leading scorer for the Trail Blazers this season. He’s consistently been able to stay on the court throughout his seven years in the league and at most, missed 9 games in a single season. Lillard provides Portland with a scoring guard, averaging 25.8 points last season along with 6.9 assists.
At the shooting guard position is Portland’s second best player, CJ McCollum. The second leading scorer on the team boasted a career high 45.9% field goal percentage last year and is one of the most consistent players over the past few seasons. He’s averaged anywhere from 20.8 to 23 points over the past four years and is great on the defensive side of the ball. The percentages are also very encouraging with a career 40.1% on 3’s and 48.2% on 2’s. Behind him on the depth chart is Anfernee Simons who’s got great potential and should see good minutes at the start of the season. Gary Trent Jr. is another guard who’s looking to get minutes in year two though he currently sits behind Simons on the depth chart.
The small forward position is projected to belong to Kent Bazemore after came over from the Atlanta Hawks. He started 35 games for them last year and produced 11.6 points, 2.3 assists, and 3.9 rebounds on a nightly basis. He’ll be a reliable scorer for the Trail Blazers but likely won’t be counted on as one of the top options. Rodney Hood sits behind him on the depth chart after he came over in a midseason trade with the Cavaliers. In 27 games, he was utilized off the bench and currently projects to do the same this year. He’s a decent shooter can help stretch the floor whenever on the court. Similarly, Mario Hezonja will play a similar role as the third small forward on the roster.
Zach Collins is the projected opening night start at power forward after coming off the bench as the backup center for his entire career. If he does play heavy minutes, expect good energy and hopefully more of the same stats. In only 17.6 minutes each game, he averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds. With starter level minutes, Collins could be looking at 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. His backup, Anthony Tolliver, is another bench player who could be looking for minutes off the bench. He enters his age 34 season as a forward who can knock down three’s and give Portland a few points every night.
The most interesting position to keep an eye on will be the center spot. Hassan Whiteside will get first dibs on the position after being a staple in the Miami lineup for the past few years. However, he’s began trending down as his scoring and rebounding numbers have gone down the past two years. If they continue, he could find himself on the bench in favor of either Skal Labissiere or Jusuf Nurkic. Labissiere has seemingly fallen out of favor after averaging just 7 minutes of action each game with the Blazers last year. On the flip side, Nurkic will likely return from injury and hopes to pick up where he left off. He averaged 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds last year and was one of Portland’s key players before the leg injury. It’s possible the Blazers play both Whiteside and Nurkic if one moves to the power forward position. It’ll give them a great scoring and rebounding duo but leaves them vulnerable on defensive switching.