The Portland Trail Blazers kick off their regular season on Wednesday against a beefed-up Western Conference. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, in his preseason power rankings, has Portland ranked eighth - and thinks their ability to make a midseason move could puch them even higher:
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum need a boost, and Portland has the necessary salary fillers (Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore) and the assets (Nassir Little, Zach Collins, future picks) to complete an impact trade. Dame and CJ are small, so it would make sense for that player to be a forward or a big. So far in this season-preview series, I’ve mentioned the following players as possible trade pieces: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, Marc Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Blazers fans would do cartwheels down the streets of Portland if Woj reports any of those guys are on the trade block. This is a year for Neil Olshey to go all-in.
It’s notable that O’Connor likes Portland’s talent even without a deal:
The Blazers should be a playoff team even without a deal. They have lots of talent, continuity, and a good coach. This summer, they improved their shooting by trading Evan Turner for Bazemore and retaining Rodney Hood instead of Al-Farouq Aminu or Moe Harkless. I’m also quite high on Anfernee Simons, whom I recently wrote about as a potential breakout player. Simons gives the Blazers the bench scoring spark they lacked.
The regular season kicks off Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets.