Portland Trail Blazers 2020 Playoff Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers had a very up and down season. After losing center Jusuf Nurkic to a serious injury at the end of the 2018-19 season, Portland took a "risk" last summer and traded for Hassan Whiteside. He rewarded them by being a key part of the team and leading the league in blocks while finishing third in rebounds.
They took another "risk" in signing Carmelo Anthony in November. Melo had a lot of drama surrounding him and some laughed at the move. However, he had a very good "revival" season. He had his best three-point shooting season in six years and averaged just over 15 points per game.
Those two gave Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum enough help to get them into the bubble in Orlando. Dame took over from there and got them into the playoffs.
Biggest Strengths: Three-Point Shooting The Blazers ranked sixth in points per game, largely in part due to their three-point shooting. They ranked third in three-point percentage and tenth in threes made. Lillard, McCollum, Melo and Trent all shot at least 37.9 percent from deep. Biggest Weakness: Perimeter Defense Portland allowed the fifth most points per game, mainly due to their porous perimeter defense. They allowed the second most threes on the second highest percentage from deep. The only real help they have as a perimeter defender is Trevor Ariza. Wait, he didn't come to Orlando? Well, looks like they'll be reaching deep down their depth chart for an answer unless Melo can suddenly guard LeBron. Team's X-Factor: Center Again, Whiteside led the league in blocks and was third in rebounds. He was sent to the bench in the seeding games as Jusuf Nurkic returned. Nurkic has put up just over 18 points, 11 boards, four dimes and two blocks per game in Orlando. Having both of those guys at the five is a serious advantage. Combined with their shooters, they have a legit inside-out game. Player to Watch: Damian Lillard Who else? Dame in clutch time and in the postseason is a spectacle to behold. He was just MVP of the seeding games following an insane run where he showed just how dominant he can be. A 60-point game, a 50-point game, and an all-around show to beat the Nets and Grizzlies to place his team in the playoffs. He is going to do everything he can to advance his team.
Estimated Playoff Run: First Round Exit Sorry, Dame. The man is one of my favorite players in the entire league and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the underdog Blazers beat the Lakers in the opening round behind 40 per game from Lillard. However, the Lakers are the number one seed for a reason and have both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. I can easily see this series going six or even the full seven games. I just don't see LeBron losing in the first round where he is currently undefeated.