The Portland Trail Blazers have disappointed this season. After being a regular in the playoffs, the blazers have had a season to forget. They went 29-37, before the NBA hiatus and were missing key components of their team. Big men such as Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins have been missing the majority of the season due to injury concerns. If this season had been anywhere near normal, the season would be over and the Blazer would probably not have made the playoffs. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it seems as though the Blazers are getting a second shot at making the playoffs with a healthier and rested team.
A Healthier Team
The Portland Trail Blazer lost Rodney Hood, Zach Collins, and Jusuf Nurkic to injuries during the season. These players played massive roles as support players and secondary scorers. Nurkic and Collins held down the frontcourt, providing defense in the paint as well as consistent scoring and rebounding down low. Hood was the 3-point specialist, who was able to knock down crucial catch and shoot threes. The Blazers also just traded for Hassan Whiteside before the season ended, who was set to stop the bleeding from the Nurkic injury. With the NBA on hiatus, and all players given a 30 day break from basketball, we are now expected to see both Collins and Nurkic suit up for the Blazers. This changes the whole dynamic for the Blazers because not only are they getting their frontcourt back, but we can see how good their recent additions are with a contending team. The signing of Carmelo Anthony seemed like a last ditch effort as the Blazers spiraled toward the lottery, but as the team moved up the standings we got to see a Melo we hadn’t seen in OKC or Houston. By moving to small forward, Melo is returning to the position that he started his NBA career at. The Blazers are now at the form where they should be contending for the championship, but due to injuries they will be competing with up and coming teams such as the Grizzlies and the Pelicans.
Damian Lillard has made a name for himself in the playoffs. He has become one of the most clutch players in the league, and can take over games. After a one month break of carrying the Blazers within striking distance of the 8th seed, Lillard will be the most rested he has ever been come playoff time and will have much more support compared to the regular season. Even if it does take time for Nurkic and Collins to get back into basketball form or Melo to get accustomed to playing small forward, the Blazers will know that they can always count on Lillard when they need a bucket or a win.
The Portland Trail Blazers will need to fight with the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans for the coveted 8th seed that all three of them so desperately want. For the Blazers, they will need to regain their 2018-2019 form, and see that their mid-season additions pay off.
- EssentiallySports/Arjun Athreya