Jake Layman’s departure was just the latest move that massively reshapes the Trail Blazers’ roster heading into the 2019-20 regular season. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey delivered a busy offseason that will welcome at least a half-dozen new faces to the Lillard-led squad. Towering center Hassan Whiteside and veteran wing Kent Bazemore headline a new group that will attempt to contribute to the Blazers’ return to the Western Conference Finals.
The Blazers still have two roster spots and one two-way contract slot open. Prior to those potential moves, here is a prospective look at Portland’s new depth chart.
- PG: Damian Lillard* | Anfernee Simons
- SG: CJ McCollum* | Kent Bazemore | Gary Trent Jr.
- SF: Rodney Hood* | Mario Hezonja | Nassir Little (R)
- PF: Zach Collins* | Anthony Tolliver | Jaylen Hoard (two-way)
- C: Hassan Whiteside* | Skal Labissiere | Jusuf Nurkic (injured)
* Indicates place in starting lineup
All Eyes on Anfernee
Second-year point guard Anfernee Simons is set to inherit a massive minutes increase next season. The former IMG Academy standout appeared in 20 regular season games and produced 37 points in the Blazers’ impressive 136-131 victory over the Kings in the season finale. Simons has earned high praise from his teammates and the organization, but a bump of this magnitude is a considerable undertaking for any fresh-faced NBA player.
The Blazers could mitigate Simons’ learning curve by signing another veteran point guard to help steady the ship while he gets his feet wet. If Olshey decides to address other positions with the remaining vacancies, you can expect that coach Terry Stotts will return to staggering McCollum and Lillard’s minutes. The combined departures of Seth Curry and Evan Turner leave the Blazers light on ball handlers. Judging by his comments during his introduction, Hezonja is optimistic that he can undertake facilitator duties when needed.
Regardless of his limited exposure, Simons is dynamic when called upon. If everything goes according to plan, Simons and Bazemore form a potent scoring tandem off the bench.
Two Quick Fouls, Now What?
Whiteside and Collins combine to form a towering post combination in the starting lineup. Outside of their reputations as shot blockers, both players have struggled with foul trouble in their past. Based off last year’s numbers, Collins and Whiteside’s combined per 36 foul average sits at 8.7 whistles. That is notably higher than Al-Farouq Aminu and Nurkic’s combined average of 6.8. If either starter encounters foul trouble early, Labissiere or Tolliver could hear their numbers called sooner than expected.
Crunch Time & Small Ball
The presence of both Hood and Bazemore allow Stotts to craft multiple offense-first lineups for late-game situations. Combine Hezonja’s experience at power forward and Collins’ mobility at center and you have even more options when utilizing small-ball lineups.
Defensively, the biggest concern revolves around stymying high-scoring forwards. Maurice Harkless, Aminu and Turner were routinely tasked with slowing down the most dangerous players in the NBA. Bazemore’s 7-foot wingspan provides a glimmer of hope, but that is a cumbersome workload for a single player in the stacked Western Conference.