After improving in the draft as well as free agency, the Portland Trailblazers have the perfect combination of young talent and experienced veterans. Although the Western Conference will be returning to full health this season, the Trailblazers will more than likely be in the mix for a playoff spot.
Furthermore, the Trailblazers’ front office did a phenomenal job of retaining some of their best players. Not only did franchise superstar Damian Lillard sign a two-year, $122 million extension, but rising star Anfernee Simons agreed to a multi-year extension as well. As the future holds uncertainty, the Trailblazers have their star duo secured through the next few years.
The Trailblazers also added Gary Payton II during the off-season after winning a championship with the Golden State Warriors. Payton II has a solid offensive game and is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. Additionally, he can ease the defensive load on Lillard and Simons, as he will be able to guard the opposing team’s top scorer.
With that being said, the Trailblazers have little to no margin for error this year. With the correct structure, coaching, and mentality, the Trailblazers will easily be able to win at least 40 games this season.
With the amount of talent the Portland Trailblazers have, it would be a mistake to count them out of the playoff race.
If the Portland Trailblazers can remain fully healthy, they could pose a threat to numerous teams in the Western Conference. Lillard and Simons are arguably the best three-point shooting tandem in the NBA, and the unreal amount of shooting within Portland’s backcourt makes them nearly unstoppable.
Just a season ago, Lillard shot 39.1% from three on 10.5 attempts per game while Simons posted a three-point percentage of 40.5 on 7.8 attempts per game. With these two shooting the lights out, opposing teams will encounter several problems when trying to stop the Trailblazers from scoring.
For the Trailblazers to compete for a top eight seed, head coach Chauncey Billups’ game plan must be focused on utilizing Lillard and Simons to their maximum capacities. This will allow other players to find open shots as defenses will be focused on stopping Lillard and Simons from heating up.
Additionally, other players will be expected to take a step forward, including Jusuf Nurkić, and Josh Hart, and teams across the league will be unable to stop the Trailblazers’ game plan if they perform. The same goes for two-way wing Jerami Grant, who was another strong addition because he provides depth on both ends of the floor.
That all bodes well for the Trailblazers, especially since several teams in the Western Conference have gotten much weaker during the last few months. With the Utah Jazz trading away their franchise pieces and the San Antonio Spurs entering full rebuild mode, the Portland Trailblazers are almost guaranteed a spot in the play-in tournament. Their main competition appears to be between the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Nonetheless, the Trailblazers have more than enough talent and experience to make the playoffs. If all goes as planned, Portland could be a dark horse candidate for a top eight seed in the Western Conference.