2018-2019 Off the Glass Team Preview Series: Portland Trail Blazers
The Lead Sports Media
The 2018-2019 NBA season starts October 16th and to get you ready for tip-off, Off the Glass is previewing all 30 teams. Today we look at the Portland Trail Blazers.
49-33, 1st in Northwest Division. Lost 0-4 in the 1st Round.
Blazers appeared to be a solid playoff team throughout the year and raised expectations with a 13-game winning streak that saw them without a loss in over a month. Damian Lillard played at a torrid pace, garnering himself 1st Team All-NBA honors and maintaining a healthy roster throughout the season were the main factors in Portland capturing the third seed in the Western Conference. Despite this, the Blazers backed into the playoffs with a 1-4 record over their last 5 games and ran headfirst into a waiting New Orleans Pelicans team that had their number, sweeping Portland out of the first round.
Ed Davis, C; Shabazz Napier, PG
Seth Curry, G
Player to Watch:
Zach Collins, C
Running it back with virtually the same core that achieved the third seed in the Western Conference should be a cause for optimism, but this Blazers squad faces fresh challenges in the 2018-19 season. To their advantage, Coach Stotts has been ahead of the three-point revolution during his tenure and his system consistently generates open looks from deep. The hope for the Blazers is that Curry, Stauskas, and Mo Harkless take and make the lion's share of those looks after Aminu, Napier, and Connaughton struggled to hit open shots last season.
Aminu will either have to attack open space (teams usually elect not to close out on him) to create or knock down wide open looks for the Blazers to maintain regular season success. He jacked up 4.9 triples per game last year, (exactly one less than McCollum’s 5.9 3PA per game), mainly out of necessity and often to the frustration of Blazers’ fans.
Defensively you can imagine this team taking another step forward with their roster building chemistry from year to year. They did last season, improving from a 107.8 defensive rating in 2017 to a 104.2 last year. If that trend continues it should help put an end to the “break up the back-court” conversation.
Due to their glut of bad contracts and being $13 million over the luxury tax threshold there’s little reason to expect outside help on the trade market. What could soften the blow is the emergence of Zach Collins, an athletic two-way threat that gives the Blazers another look with a defensive stretch five.
Worst Case Scenario:
A team paying Andrew Nicholson, Anderson Varejao, and Festus Ezeli nearly $5.1 million dollars to not play for them suffers from lack of depth. Dame or CJ suffer a significant injury and the Blazers fall into the lottery.
Best Case Scenario:
Collins exhibits early signs as the Blazers long lost third star, role players hit the open shots generated by CJ and Dame gets the Blazers out to a fast start as the rest of the West searches for chemistry. The injury bug stays away for another year allowing the Blazers to capture the 2nd or 3rd seed.
45-37, 3rd in Northwest Division.