NBA season preview: Portland Trail Blazers


STAYING: Al-Farouq Aminu, Pat Connaughton, Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Luis Montero, Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh.

ADDED: Festus Ezeli (Golden State), Grant Jerrett, Jake Layman (Maryland), Shabazz Napier (Orlando), Tim Quarterman (Louisiana State), Greg Stiemsma and Evan Turner (Boston).

GONE: Cliff Alexander (Orlando), Gerald Henderson (Philadelphia), Chris Kaman and Brian Roberts (Charlotte).

STRENGTHS: One of the most dynamic backcourt combos in the NBA in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum … Lillard has proved to be a bona-fide franchise player who can carry a team offensively … He seems to feed off of perceived under-appreciation … McCollum comes off a breakout season and the best might be yet to come for him … Both Lillard and McCollum are really creative off the dribble … Portland has a bunch of glue guys who can bring a lot to the table in terms of defense and rebounding and will not ask for the ball too much … Pretty athletic squad … Strong three-point shooting … Chemistry was terrific last season … Terry Stotts has done a terrific job in Portland so far.

WEAKNESSES: Few teams rely as much on one player as they Blazers do with Lillard … If he has an off night, that’s really big trouble for Portland … There’s no reliable backup for him … The Blazers could use a No. 3 option offensively … Not clear who that might be on this team … Outside of Lillard and McCollum, no Blazer has averaged better than 14 ppg in an NBA season … Festus Ezeli, Meyers Leonard and Noah Vonleh enter the year with questions about health … Not much in terms of low-post scoring … Defense was far from elite in 2015-16 … Their undersized backcourt doesn’t help there.

PREDICTION: 4th in the Northwest Division, 9th in the Western Conference.



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