The Trail Blazers hopes of returning to the Western Conference Finals are built on the outstanding play of Damian Lillard and the increased versatility that Portland’s re-tooled roster possesses. In regards to the latter, Basketball News contributor Nekias Duncan listed the Blazers’ forward reinforcements as a source of optimism for the season ahead.
Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. took center stage in Duncan’s preseason evaluation of the entire Northwest Division.
Landing Robert Covington is the shot in the arm their defense needed. He has the body type to match-up with star wings; more importantly, he has the off-ball IQ and switchability needed to work in more aggressive defensive schemes. The Blazers have firmly been a “Drop” team under head coach Terry Stotts; adding Covington gives them the flexibility to get more aggressive.
Along with Covington, the Blazers added Derrick Jones Jr. to juice their defense and transition attack. The Blazers didn’t just add bigs, they added different types of bigs. Enes Kanter is back for change-of-pace scoring and offensive rebounding. Harry Giles adds athleticism and high post passing.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Duncan examined Portland’s lack of guard depth.
I like the idea of Anfernee Simons. He has fantastic size for a lead guard, a nice first step, and he just looks silky out there when he’s in a rhythm. There’s a level of dynamism to be excited about.
He’s also incredibly young and still learning the ropes of the position. He’s also the only other point guard on the roster aside from Lillard. Stotts will keep one of Lillard or McCollum on the floor at all times so it won’t be a huge deal...unless one of those guys get hurt.
In regards to the Blazers’ place in the standings, Duncan explained that a best-case outcome could see Portland claim the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
You can read Duncan’s full preview of the Northwest Division at Basketball News.