The Portland Trail Blazers had their fair share of doubters coming into the season following a not-so-splashy NBA Free Agency period. However, the team enjoyed another run to the 3-seed behind stellar play from Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, CJ McCollum and several supporting players, too. Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report gave Portland a B+ for their regular season, offering praise for the players and head coach Terry Stotts:
Note to self: Never doubt Damian Lillard.
Maybe this is a me problem, but I don’t look at the Portland Trail Blazers roster and see a top-four team in the West, especially with the defense playing closer to expectations this season (16th) than last (sixth). It’s a single-star squad with question marks along the wings and limited protection at the rim.
But maybe that doesn’t matter when Lillard is leading the charge. He’s fearless and ice-cold in the clutch, as well as a scoring/distributing/attacking threat from anywhere on the court. This was his second straight season averaging 25 points, six assists, four rebounds and three triples. Stephen Curry and James Harden are the only other players to ever hit those marks.
CJ McCollum is a magnificent scorer in his own right, Jusuf Nurkic has loads of offensive skills for a 7’0”, 275-pounder and Terry Stotts might be the best coach no one talks about. The Blazers lost McCollum for 10 games to a knee injury and Nurkic for the year with a leg fracture and still never missed a beat.
It’s fair to wonder whether a lack of shot-creators around this dynamic backcourt could lead to another premature playoff exit. But through a regular-season lens, Portland damn near aced this.
What grade would you give Portland’s regular season? Let us know in the comments.