Preseason Preview #16: Portland Trailblazers

Season Goal: Decide if Dame and CJ works

The Trailblazers have been regurgitating the same roster year after year with remarkably similar results every time. Year after year they refuse to make a change and year after year they are a first or second round exit in the playoffs. The talented backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum has kept this team afloat for years now, but they have also kept a ceiling on what this team could be. Both are extremely talented on offense, but their skillsets are somewhat redundant, limiting their effectiveness. Additionally, both are subpar defenders which hurts the team’s defense. After trying to make it work for so many years, this has to be the season that the Portland front office decides if they can be serious competitors or if they have to move on.

Storylines:

Dame Time is Running Out

After his game-winner in Houston 4 years ago Damian Lillard became immortalized in Portland. The Trailblazers seemed to be a young team on the rise, but then they lost 4 of their 5 starters (Lamarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, and Robin Lopez) leaving Dame as the only remaining starter. Lillard claimed he wanted to stay loyal to the franchise but now seems to be more open to the idea of moving on. He may want to be traded so he can play on a competitive team while still in his prime. The Trailblazers have not made improvements since resigning Lillard and have no way to improve in the near future due to all of the terrible contracts the front office handed out. If this causes him to request a trade Portland may be forced to enter a rebuilding phase more quickly than they hoped.

The Other Curry

During the offseason, the Trailblazers signed Steph’s less talented brother, Seth Curry. Being less talented than Steph Curry isn’t a bad thing. Seth is one of the best three-point shooters in the league and an amazing rotation player. Last season, Portland was just 15th in offensive rating and only 19th in 3 point attempts. If they want to be a better offensive team they need to get better in that category, and Seth can help.

Unfortunately, Seth missed all of last season with an injury, but his 2016-2017 stats are still very promising. He shot an insane 42.5% from three that year, which would automatically make him the best shooter on the Blazers. Not to mention that was just his second season where he played more than 2 games. I would expect a little bit more improvement now that Seth is used to the NBA game. His incredible shooting should definitely improve the Blazers depth on the wing.

Depth Chart:

PG: Damian Lillard, Wade Baldwin

SG: CJ McCollum, Seth Curry, Anfernee Simons, Nik Stauskas, Gary Trent Jr

SF: Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, Jake Layman

PF: Al-Farouq Aminu, Caleb Swanigan

C: Jusuf Nurkic, Meyers Leonard, Zach Collins

Salary Cap Situation:

~130M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring Deals: Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, Wade Baldwin, Jake Layman, Nik Stauskas

Bad Contracts: Evan Turner (2yrs, 36M), Meyers Leonard (2yrs, 22M)

*All salary data via sportrac*

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