For a brief moment in the summer, it looked like the entire Blazers franchise was about to be shaken to its roots. There was talk that Damian Lillard wanted out of Portland, but he eventually refuted all reports.
WIth Lillard still in the fold, the Blazers are trying to figure out how to compete for a championship. They ended last season heartbroken after losing to the short-handed Denver Nuggets in the first round.
This year, however, is another opportunity for Portland to get back on its grind and try and make headway in a wide open Western Conference.
Portland’s roster is relatively the same this season. Lillard and C.J. McCollum are the offensive stars of the team, while Jusuf Nurkic holds down the middle. The Trail Blazers added a few other new names to the roster, but the onus will be on those three.
The biggest change the Blazers made was firing Terry Stotts in favor of Chauncey Billups. Stotts had coached the Blazers since 2012, but after a series of early playoff exits, a change was necessary.
Will Billups be the change Portland needed to get over the hump? Or will they be right back where they started when it's said and done.
Portland Trail Blazers Win Projection | 44.5 Wins (Over -108/Under -115)
I think this is a high mark for the Blazers to accomplish. With Portland, everything just seems like a struggle. The Blazers haven’t reached 45 wins in the past two seasons, but maybe that is just because of the postponed season and the following shortened season affecting their rhythm.
Regardless, Portland puts a lot of pressure on Lillard to carry the team offensively. He isn’t scared of the moment, but it is a lofty expectation. If Lillard doesn’t have any help or McCollum doesn’t take his game to the next level, expect to see Portland fighting for a spot at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Portland Trail Blazers Playoff Odds:
WynnBET is giving the Blazers -240 odds to make the playoffs. While that’s good compared to some of the other teams, it isn’t a strong number. Portland could very well find themselves in the play-in game -- which is where I see them -- and have to prove themselves again to get to the first round.
Again, there are several ways the Blazers’ season could end. I believe they’ll make the playoffs, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they miss the tournament. Maybe that will be what it takes to force Lillard to ask for a trade?
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