The Trail Blazers will put the 2019-20 NBA season in motion with media day on Monday. A successful march to the Western Conference Finals and a summer full of roster turnover has given our contributors at Blazer’s Edge plenty to think about. With that in mind, we asked our writers to discuss what they are optimistic about heading into the season ahead.
Ryan A. Sterling (@chase_blazedge): One name is all that is needed for optimism: Damian Lillard. Top five scorer in the NBA. MVP candidate in a completely fair world. Even with all of the roster turnover, Lillard is the rock that the Blazers can rely upon. The road to a Western Conference title goes through the Portland point guard, and his burning desire to win in the Rose City.
Miles Custis (@MilesCustis): The combo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is always something to look forward to. Portland’s guards have withstood the perennial calls from national writers to break them up to become arguably the NBA’s best backcourt duo (at least while Klay Thompson is injured). Their scoring ability and Lillard’s leadership should help steady the Blazers’ significant roster turnover.
Tara Bowen-Biggs (@tcbbiggs): I’m going to go ahead and be optimistic about Hassan Whiteside. The circumstances under which he joins the team all bode well for the Trail Blazers. This is in the final year of his contract, which should make him anxious to prove that he’s worth a significant investment for the next team who signs him. He will have a specific role in an established system. He joins a team with a culture of inclusion and making everyone their very best selves. He will work out great.
Lindsay Hostetler (@corvallisonian): I really believe that Zach Collins has the potential to make a considerable leap and improve his contributions to the team. Despite an ankle injury, it’s clear he spent significant time over the summer in the weight room and in trying to improve himself as a player. He is widely expected to start this year, and I think that dedicated playing time will smooth out many of the lumps and bumps we saw from Collins last season.
Steve Dewald (@SteveDHoops): Anfernee Simons’ folk-hero potential was established with a 37-point outburst against the Kings in the regular season finale, which helped set the stage for a memorable postseason run for the Blazers. The Florida native now has a clear path to a significant role on a nightly basis. I’m buying into the hype, I expect Simons to generate points early and often inside a re-tooled second unit.
Isaiah De Los Santos (@IsaiahDeLos): I’m excited about Rodney Hood having an entire summer, training camp, and preseason to truly settle in with the Blazers. His production in Portland last season was up-and-down as he joined a playoff-contending team on the fly, but his second-round performance against Denver showed the wide array of scoring tricks that he has in his bag. I’m optimistic that he’ll establish himself as a consistent scoring option in Portland’s offense now that his feeling out period is over; hopefully he can even pick up the scoring load when it’s an off night for Portland’s star backcourt.
Nate Mann (@nate_mann13): I think everyone expects this from me now, but I’m most excited for the team’s three-point shooting. Before the trade deadline last year, Portland’s usual rotation only had three reliable shooters. When the defense swarmed Lillard or McCollum on a drive, the kick out and resulting shot generally made fans wince. Now, the perimeter is peppered with guys capable of shooting 40 percent or better from three with the uptick in open looks.
Paul Navarre (@paulnavarre): I am excited about more big baskets from guys other than Lillard and McCollum. Last year teams were leaving Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless wide open behind that arc and often from the mid-range as well. That put the Blazers in a dilemma: let them take important shots or ask Lillard and McCollum to take well-defended shots. I believe this roster will largely solve that problem. If the likes of Hood and Hezonja find themselves wide open in key situations, I am confident that they will make those shots a large percent of the time. This could be a game-changer for the Blazers.
We want to join the discussion. Tell us what you are optimistic about heading into the 2019-20 season.