The Trail Blazers’ laundry list of injuries are among the storylines that have shaped the first quarter of the of the 2020-21 regular season. Portland is currently operating without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic in the rotation. On top of that duo, Robert Covington and Rodney Hood have both missed time recently.
On Tuesday, CBS Sports NBA contributor Brad Botkin mentioned the Blazers’ injury woes inside his list of disappointments from the first quarter of the season. Botkin explained that Portland could face a much tougher matchup in the postseason due to prolonged absences from Nurkic and McCollum.
It doesn’t mean the Blazers are done. Lillard has proven he can carry a team, and if he can keep the Blazers afloat for the next month or so, perhaps they could still be in range of a low playoff seed (remember, 10 teams get in with the expanded play-in series) when McCollum and Nurkic return for a late surge.
But that’s still going to pit them against a great team in the first round, if they even get that far, and that’s also assuming the front end of these timelines. Again, it doesn’t say Nurkic is going to be back in five weeks or McCollum is going to be back in a month; it says they will be reevaluated. It could be a lot longer, and that’s to say nothing of their stunted rhythm upon return.
Along with potential playoff implications, Botkin touched on how McCollum’s injury removed him from the Blazers’ lineup right as he was hitting a new tier of production.
For McCollum, we’re talking about what was the best rhythm of his career. He was in line to make his first All-Star team, having expanded his shot chart to the tune of a career-high 11 3-pointers per game, which he was making at a career-high 44 percent clip before the injury. And then he goes down. It seems like someone is always going down at a terrible time for the Blazers. This is just another gut punch.
You can read Botkin’s full list of early-season disappointments at CBS Sports.