NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Don't sleep on the Portland Trail Blazers

Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers traded Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets for Jusuf Nurkic and unfortunately were not able to reap the immediate benefits of the move due to Nurkic suffering a non-displaced right leg fibular fracture at the end of the season. During the 20 games that he played in a Trail Blazers uniform, Nurkic averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game, making an immediate impact and helping the team lock up the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

With a healthy Nurkic, the Blazers finally have a quality low post player to pair with their dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The real question is how good will this Blazers team be if they are able to keep their core trio healthy? While it's somewhat a tricky question to answer given all the moves made during the offseason, I think it's safe to say that this Blazers team has all the pieces to get back to the playoffs and possibly win a series pending on who they draw in the first round.

The real think to keep an eye on is what the Blazers do with the excess of power forwards that they have to pair with Nurkic. Ed Davis, Jake Layman, Meyers Leonard, Caleb Swanigan, and Zach Collins can all play the power forward position and it is unclear which of those guys will get the bulk of the minutes alongside Nurkic. There are good odds that the Blazers will trade one of those guys for a quality backup point guard to give their roster a bit more balance. Which one gets shipped is what remains to be seen.

Probably the other main thing to look for with this Blazers team is how ready they are mentally to take that next step. They've been hanging around for the past couple of seasons but have not yet found a way to really give a contender a scare. Lillard and McCollum are at a point of their careers where they should start to make some serious noise in the playoffs. While the addition of Nurkic is huge, it is still up to those two guys to carry the load for this team and take them to that next level where they can actually threaten to reach the conference finals.

Overall, the pieces for success appear to be in place in Portland. They have a fantastic back court and a big man to give them scoring and interior defense down low. They just have to find a way to balance out their roster a bit and build on the success that they had towards the end of last season. While I'm not yet ready to make a prediction on how deep this team goes, I am ready to say that this is a team that deserves our respect and attention as we head in to the 2017-18 season.

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