Following a memorable run to the Western Conference Finals in the 2019 NBA Playoffs, the Trail Blazers were projected to once again compete inside the NBA’s top tier. Portland reinforced those views with a round of self-declared title expectations at the outset of the 2019-20 season. Ravaged by injuries and inefficiency, the Blazers have produced a less-than-ideal 10-16 record to start the year.
On Friday, Sports Illustrated’s Michael Shapiro listed the disappearance of the Blazers’ title hopes inside a group of equally underwhelming storylines.
The Blazers reached their first conference finals in nearly two decades last season, but their roster entering 2019-20 didn’t mirror a team ready to make the next step toward the Finals. Part of Portland’s regression has been out of their control. Center Jusuf Nurkic is out for potentially the entire season as he recovers from a leg fracture, and fellow big man Zach Collins may also be out for all of 2019-20 due to shoulder surgery. The injuries–and the departures of Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless–have left Portland with a roster short of contention for the Western Conference crown. The enigmatic Hassan Whiteside is the Blazers’ center, and too many minutes are given to Kent Bazemore and Mario Hezonja. Carmelo Anthony’s return to the floor has been a heartwarming story, though nobody confuses the 10-time All-Star for a franchise savior at this point in his career. Portland is simply bereft of the bodies necessary to compete with the top of the West.
Despite a rough start to the season, the Blazers are still on the postseason bubble. A place that is far removed from their preseason expectations.