The Portland Trail Blazers surpassed expectations in 2017-18 to finish No. 3 in the Western Conference and with home-court advantage in the NBA Playoffs. While they were swept by the New Orleans Pelicans, most didn’t expect the Blazers to end up at 49 wins, so the season could be considered a success. Now, the team could be up for changes with starter Jusuf Nurkic (restricted) and role players Ed Davis (unrestricted), Shabazz Napier (restricted), and Pat Connaughton (restricted) heading into free agency this summer.
With the amount of free agents, a top payroll already, and questions around the backcourt’s viability, Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report thinks the Blazers are set to disappoint next year:
The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the NBA’s better backcourts in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. However, it’s tough to tell if they have another significant strength or even how committed they are to this one.
But wait, you’re asking, weren’t these Blazers the third-best team in the West?
By record, yes, albeit with a one-win edge on the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds and a three-victory advantage over the ninth. But after a rocky 5-7 close to the campaign, the DeMarcus Cousins-less New Orleans Pelicans swept them out of the first round of the playoffs.
Given the shape of Portland’s financial books—bloated beyond all reason—this core will likely be trimmed this summer, not expanded. All four free agents listed should attract enough attention that the Blazers will have to sacrifice at least one.