2019-20 NBA Team Preview Series: Portland Trail Blazers
The 2019-2020 NBA season starts October 22nd and to get you ready for tip-off, Off the Glass is previewing all 30 teams. Today we look at the Portland Trail Blazers.
2018-2019 Record: 53-29, 2nd in the Northwest Division. Lost 0-4 to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
Season Recap: The Trail Blazers started the season out hot, going 10-3 in their first 13 games with one of those loses coming from a last second block in overtime. Playing in arguably the toughest division in the NBA, the Trail Blazers kept pace with other top-tier teams and won 53 games with the league’s 3rd-ranked offensive rating. Jusuf Nurkic suffered a horrific injury, breaking his leg with nine games left in the regular season, but that didn’t deter their postseason plans. In the first round of the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Damian Lillard hit a 37-foot buzzer-beater in Game 5, moving the Blazers on to the second round. Even without Nurkic, Portland was able to overcome the Northwest Champ Denver Nuggets in seven games, winning Game 7 on the road. Everything came to a halt in the Western Conference Finals where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.
Key Loses: Al-Farouq Aminu, F; Seth Curry, G; Maurice Harkless, F; Enes Kanter, C; Jake Layman, F; Meyers Leonard, C; Evan Turner, G/F.
Key Additions: Kent Bazemore, G/F; Pau Gasol, C; Mario Hezonja G, Anthony Tolliver F/C; Hassan Whiteside, C.
Preview: The Trail Blazers are going to pick up right where they left off. Even though they will be without Nurkic for a while - possibly the entire season - they made smart moves in bringing in veteran big men who can contribute right away. They will look to Whiteside to be the defensive anchor, hoping that the mercurial center will right himself after falling out of favor with the Miami Heat. Now in a contract year, he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder trying to prove to the league he’s still got it.
This is going to be a different team, though, after losing players who played significant minutes for them last year and started a combined 181 games. Zach Collins appears to be ready to make the leap as a starter, and Bazemore and key reserve Rodney Hood will need to be relied upon to carry the offensive load when Lillard and McCollum are sitting.
Player to Watch: Zach Collins, PF
Team X-Factor: Big men reaching potential.
Worst Case Scenario: Jusuf Nurkic needs all year to recover and Whiteside isn’t the player the Trail Blazers need him to be.
Best Case Scenario: After an offseason of new NBA team-ups, longtime teammates Lillard and McCollum finally make it over the hump and lead the Trail Blazers to a Finals appearance.
Actual 2019-2020 Prediction: 48-34, 3rd in the Northwest Division