Once again, the Portland Trail Blazers are projected to be an underdog in their own division, according to John Hollinger of the Athletic. Hollinger predicts that the Blazers will finish 3rd in the division (41-41), behind the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. Hollinger contends that despite the roster additions Portland made during the off-season, it isn’t enough to get them over the obstacle created by the loss of Jusuf Nurkic to injury.
Locking down Hassan Whiteside to fill Nurkic’s spot until the All-Star break (the rough expectation for his return) will help stem the bleeding; Whiteside led the league in rebound rate and was third in block rate. But in terms of overall defense, he’s a major downgrade, while offensively he lacks Nurk’s feel for dribble handoffs and short rolls. Likely small forward starter Kent Bazemore has struggled with injuries and inconsistency the past two years; he may not be much of an upgrade on Evan Turner, let alone Harkless. Collins’ time is coming, but asking him to guard starting 4s next to Whiteside is a huge leap of faith.
Hollinger notes that the re-signing of Rodney Hood was a good move on the Trail Blazers’ part, but he has serious doubts about how young—and old—this season’s roster is, acknowledging that while Portland has added some veteran presence, there are still a lot of young guys on this team that have yet to show their worth.
You can read the whole piece here.