Getting swept out of the playoffs for three consecutive seasons has got to be a tough thing to bounce back from. But if any team can do it, it’s the boys from the Pacific Northwest.
Every year, the Portland Trail Blazers are met with doubt from the mainstream media. But just like they’re city, they keep progressing forward with positivity.
As we approach this new season, many teams have question marks. But the Portland Trail Blazers are the one rare case of sustained stability.
The Portland Trail Blazers have taken the gradual approach to success. They didn’t tank to draft superstars. They took what was given to them and have cherished the guys who have put everything on the line for them.
Damian Lillard was rewarded with the Super Max contract, while CJ McCollum got a hefty extension of his own. As failure to reach the NBA Finals has fell upon them, everyone from the outside continued to ask if these two were going to remain paired with each other.
As a pair, they have reached the playoffs every single season. And in a loaded Western Conference, that is no small feat for a small market team who was supposed to be going through a transition phase when they drafted these guys. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
While many teams have made huge moves to bring in superstars for a chance at just one title, the Blazers have chosen to build stability in hopes to maintain a winning culture for the next 5-10 years.
Growth isn’t always surface level. Sure, we can say that the Blazers reaching the Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years shows great growth. But it goes deeper than that.
Building a roster to fit the two stars they have has changed drastically over these last few years. And the moves they have made since the 2018 Draft shows promise for their best season yet.
Anfernee Simons didn’t play much in his rookie season, but his potential is what makes this kid an intriguing piece to their puzzle. Deciding to forgo college and play an extra year of Prep School basketball with IMG Academy shows how invested this kid is. It’s always been just about basketball for him, and a leap in his sophomore season could help incredibly to their guard depth with the loss of Seth Curry.
But waiting around for Simons to develop isn’t the only basket their putting their eggs into. Rodney Hood had flashes of massive improvement over the course of the postseason. Including a huge performance in the final overtime of pivotal game against the Denver Nuggets. His talent was never in question wherever he went, it was just a matter of a team finding a way to utilize his skill set as a guy who can shoot off the catch or create his own shot when the time is winding down.
The Blazers love running the pick and roll with their two stars and big men who can get to the basket, or shoot 20 foot jump shots. They are nearly impossible to guard when their wings are hitting their shots.
They came up on possibly the biggest steak in the draft with Nassir Little. He didn’t hav the luxury of having the offense run through him at UNC because of all the talent they had on that roster. But his skill set fits perfectly with what the Blazers need. A guy with a high motor, who can defend, run the pick and roll, and shoots nearly 80% from the free throw line.
As they are still waiting to see what they will ultimately get out of Zach Collins and Skal Labissière, they decided to make a move and pick up Hassan Whiteside for next to nothing. Besides his overpriced contract of course. But as a small market team that rarely signs free agents to big contracts, this contract isn’t much of a risk. Anything positive from Whiteside is a win.
Their move to replace Evan Turner with Kent Bazmore seems like a lateral move. He does almost everything Turner does to a T, except for the fact that he can shoot three’s from time to time. Him and Mario Hezonja will eat up minutes off the bench, but they have the luxury of not asking much from these guys.
With this immense amount of youth, they took a flyer on Pau Gasol. If not for his play, then strictly for his veteran leadership and championship pedigree. They desperately needed a locker room presence with someone who has done it at the highest level before. He will make an impact even if he doesn’t play a second for them all season.
The biggest question mark they have is when Jusuf Nurkic will be ready. He is the key to them reaching their highest potential. This team is built for him to be successful alongside their two stars. When he was healthy last season, he had flashes where he looked unstoppable.
Including his historic 5x5 game in Sacramento where he was the first player ever to record at least five steal, blocks, points, rebounds, and assists in a single game. His health could make them the best team in the Western Conference.
Stability is what separates the Portland Trail Blazers from the rest of the league. While many of the top teams such as the Jazz, Rockets, Warriors, Lakers, Clippers, and Sixers all will have to figure out their new rosters as the season progresses, the Blazers will be a smooth sailing ship from the jump.
With all the hoopla going around in the league, it’s easy to forget about this team. But chances are that they’re stable culture is going to carry them throughout the season. And it won’t just be another good year.
The Portland Trail Blazers will be the one seed in the Western Conference.
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