Portland was a lot like the Mavericks during Damian Lillard’s time there. They had a superstar at the helm and championship aspirations before ultimately disappointment reverberated throughout the organization when they could only make one conference final in Lillard’s 11 seasons. Now that Lillard is gone, there are few expectations and even fewer ideas of what this team is going to be. They’re young, fresh, and ready to prove that they aren’t as far away from contention as people think.
Portland Trailblazers (Over/Under 28.5 Wins)
Key Adds - Scoot Henderson, Deandre Ayton, Robert Williams, Malcolm Brogdon
Key Losses - Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic
Last season, the only teams to win less than 29 games were the Hornets, Pistons, Rockets, and Spurs. All of these teams were young, tanking, and had plenty of players hurt or off the team throughout the year. This was the absolute bottom of the barrel. With that being the requirement for Portland to go under, there is no chance that they do.
Firstly, the Trailblazers have one of the best young cores in the league. Henderson, Simons, Shaedon Sharpe and now Deandre Ayton is a group that could cause some serious problems for defenses. Henderson is for real; watch him play one time and you’ll see that he is going to be a threat from day one. When we look back on this draft class, he is going to be redrafted in the top two, and could very well end up being the best player from the 2023 Draft. Simons and Sharpe are uber-talented, and when they got the chance to play towards the end of the season last year without Lillard, they both shined. After March 1st, Sharpe averaged nearly 23 points, six rebounds, and over four assists in 10 games without Lillard. In 11 games last season without Lillard, Simons put up almost 28 points a game. The Blazers are “committed to young guards”, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. They already moved Jrue Holiday on to Boston, and Brogdon could be on the move as well. Either way, the Blazers’ young group is going to play a lot, and they’ll only get better as the season wears on.
Additionally, veterans like Jerami Grant, Deandre Ayton, and Robert Williams are added to this mix, giving you a weird blend of talent and experience with a healthy amount of youth. Ayton has seen a rejuvenation since being traded from Phoenix and even said he felt like he “just got drafted”. His last few seasons with the Suns have been underwhelming, but it is important to remember that he was once the first pick in the draft only five years ago and has already played in the NBA Finals. Robert Williams has Finals experience as well so there is no shortage of knowledge on this roster. Having two guys who know what it takes to win is invaluable for a younger team.
Portland isn’t going to win a playoff series but they are a real candidate to make the play-in this year. They are going to be competitive night in and night out and we shouldn’t be surprised when they beat Denver or Philadelphia or Golden State. Everyone is talking about the guy who just left the Northwest, but by the end of the year, we’re going to be talking about the guys who play there every night.