Nobody ever thinks of the Portland Trail Blazers as legit Championship contenders, but they always find a way to make it deep into the playoffs, just like they did last year when they made it to the WCF.
Terry Stotts has made his presence felt in the team’s locker room. They’ve developed an identity, and he‘s always found a way to reinvent the squad and learn from last season’s mistakes to keep improving.
The Blazers were kind of quiet through most of the offseason but added some interesting pieces to come off the bench and help them on a playoff run. But, how will they line up to start the season? Let’s break it down:
Bench: Anfernee Simmons, Mario Hezonja, Kent Bazemore, Nassir Little, Pau Gasol, Anthony Tolliver, Skal Labissiere
Point Guard: Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is the undisputed leader of this team. People continue to sleep on him, and he continues to improve and prove everybody wrong. He ran out of gas in the playoffs, so perhaps they’ll try to handle his minutes this year.
Lillard has openly talked about his desire to stay in RIP City for life, even if that means never winning a ring. Still, he’s got the chance to becoming the greatest Blazer ever if he leads them to a Championship.
Shooting Guard: CJ McCollum
CJ McCollum can ball. He can put any defender in the world on skates, and he makes up for his lack of size with a great understanding of the game, high basketball IQ, top-notch handles and a vast offensive repertoire.
McCollum has the chance to break out this season and make it to the All-Star Game. He’s developed a great rapport with Lillard, and we all know the Blazers will go as far as their backcourt gets them.
Small Forward: Rodney Hood
Rodney Hood’s career took a major boost when he made it to the Blazers last year, after mightily struggling to become an efficient scorer during his brief stint with the dysfunctional Cleveland Cavaliers.
Hood won’t bring much help on the defensive end, but he’s a proven walking bucket. He’s a streaky scorer and tends to get cold at times, but he can be this team’s X-Factor on any given night with his ability to put points on the scoreboard.
Power Forward: Zach Collins
Zach Collins has shown glimpses of greatness throughout his first couple of seasons in the league, and now that he’ll finally start for the Blazers, he’s a lock to be in the Most Improved Player conversation.
Collins can help this team spread the floor with his sweet stroke from beyond the arc, but he can also challenge some shots below the rim, post-up, and guard stronger big men. He can also play as a small-ball five with 5 shooters on the floor.
Center: Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside was finally granted his wish. He’s no longer with the Miami Heat and will be the team’s undisputed starting center, at least while Jusuf Nurkic works his way back in following his gruesome injury.
Whiteside’s got the potential to be one of the league’s most dominant rebounders and rim protectors, but he must put his ego aside and do what’s best for the team instead of just focusing on his numbers.