Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers made their first conference finals appearance since 2000 off the stellar play of their backcourt and doubling down on the roster from the year before in order to bring continuity and consistency to their organization. However, given the number of teams in the western conference that are positioning themselves for a playoff run this upcoming season, the Blazers are not going to have an easy route to get back there again. That being said, it wouldn’t be wise to count out the Blazers from earning their 7th consecutive playoff berth, as once again their stabilized core and offensive firepower is the perfect recipe for a successful regular season team.
To start things off, it certainly doesn’t hurt Portland to have a superstar like Damian Lillard on the roster. Lillard was once again dominant last year, pacing the Blazers by leading the team in points and assists yet again. But the question about Lillard was how he would respond after putting up a dud in the 2018 playoffs against the Pelicans as he averaged only 18.5 points per game on an abysmal 35.2% field goal percentage, but the all-star point guard responded with his most efficient playoff performance of his career (including the unforgettable game winner against Oklahoma City that basically sent the Thunder straight into rebuilding mode). With that being said, Blazer fans should be comfortable with Damian Lillard as their best player, as he shown that he can be the type of leader both on and off the court that get Portland to where they want to go.
Lillard’s backcourt partner, CJ McCollum, will also be backing up a spectacular 2019 postseason performance in an effort to get Portland back to the western conference finals. Unlike Lillard, McCollum has been consistently superb in the the playoffs over his career, but the question surrounding his game is how can he get more efficient. He shot a career low 37.5% from the 3-point line a year ago, and while this by no means a number to be ashamed of, you would expect a players of CJ’s quality to knock down threes at a higher rate, especially given that the opposing defense will prioritize slowing down Lillard over him.
As for the rest of the roster, Portland made some moves this summer in an effort to strengthen their rotation. In an interesting trade, the Blazers acquired Hassan Whiteside from the Heat with the hope that he can serve as a productive starting center while they wait for Jusuf Nurkic to recover from the devastating leg injury he suffered last season. While Whiteside is known for racking up rebounds and blocks, he was also blamed for being a culture-ruiner back in Miami due to his inconsistent effort, which is something that will have to change if he wants to be a difference maker this year on a competitive team like Portland. They will also look for Rodney Hood and Zach Collins to replicate the promise they showed last year, as these two guys proved to be an instrumental part of the team’s success.