After making an appearance in the Western Conference Finals last spring, the Portland Trail Blazers are struggling to keep their heads above water in the early stretch of the new season.
Through 18 games, Portland is in the bottom 10 of the league in field goal percentage, free throw attempts per game, and opponent points per game, and opponent total rebounds per game. With a record of 6-12 on the season, they are tied for 12th in the West.
Injuries and offseason roster changes have forced the Blazers to use multiple different lineups to start the season, and it seems the team is struggling to find chemistry with each other.
Despite the misfortune, the team seems confident in their ability to bounce back.
“Just watch,” Lillard said calmly, as relayed by Jason Quick of The Athletic. “Just watch. You’ve seen this movie before. You all probably don’t want to hear it, but it’s such a long way to go,” Lillard told reporters. “Because of that, there are two things you can do: you can either pout and say we should have won that game [against Cleveland on Saturday], or ‘We should have did this’ or ‘We are not doing this.’
“I think our team understands that there are certain things we are not doing well enough to win games. But we really do as a group believe it is going to turn around. So, we are just going to stay with it and keep working towards improving. That’s all we can do.”
Nevertheless, questions remain about the potential of their roster. Outside of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, they don't have a consistent star player that they can rely on. Truth is, you never know what you're going to get from Carmelo, Hood, and Whiteside on any given night.
Might a veteran scoring big man provide the solution to their problems? On the outside looking in, that would certainly seem to be the case. ESPN's Zach Lowe agrees, and suggested Kevin Love as a name currently on Portland's radar:
“To me, one of the interesting questions about [the Blazers] is they are going to be a team that is talked about with Kevin Love. When Cleveland inevitably crosses the Rubicon and realizes there’s just no reason to have Kevin Love on that team, he deserves to be on a winner and says, ‘let’s make this happen,' Portland’s name is gonna come up. Because if you put a play-making screen-setter who can shoot next to Dame and CJ, that’s a problem. Now the questions around the league is, ‘is Kevin Love a more of a center than a power forward?’ and if so, does he fit with Nurkic, or does he not fit with Nurkic? Or do we need to find more of a true 4 than Kevin Love. I don’t know the answers to that. But I would like to see that a lot.”
What might the Trail Blazers give up in such a deal? 2019 pick Nassir Little, who has surprised a lot of folks in the NBA community.
"What I think is interesting, too, is they’re gathering up assets. Getting Nassir Little in the back end of the draft ... he’s a real talent. That’s a guy everyone thought was gonna go in the top ten. That was HUGE," Lowe said. "I’ve talked to people around the league and it’s almost like Portland had a lottery pick. To have him and Anfernee Simons, who they’re very high on ... Now you mentioned ... can they get a center?"
If anything, Portland's struggles have exposed who they have in Simmons and Little -- very promising young players who are playing way above expectations. One has to think a package of those two, Whiteside, and a future 1st round pick would be enough to generate significant interest from Cleveland.
It will be interesting to see how this situation develops leading up to February;'s trade deadline, and if Portland can turn things around before it's too late.