The Trail Blazers have battled through injuries in the first half of the 2020-21 regular season on their way to a 21-14 record. With the second half of the season on the horizon, NBA.com delivered a midseason report for each team at the All-Star break. For the Blazers, contributor Shaun Powell focused on the ceiling that a full-strength Portland squad might reach when games resume.
Powell’s assessment focused on CJ McCollum’s return and the Blazers’ position in a crowded Western Conference field.
Assuming McCollum recovers nicely, the Blazers should have the necessary rotational players to make noise and perhaps push for a top-four seed in the West. Lots will depend on the efforts of a few newcomers, namely Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington. These athletic swingmen are valued for their defense, a major issue with Portland last season which hasn’t completely vanished (the Blazers are 28th in Defensive Rating).
Gary Trent Jr. was a revelation last season for the Blazers, especially in the playoffs. He replaced McCollum in the lineup after his injury and, while he had his moments — especially with deep shooting (41%) — Trent is perhaps better suited as a sixth man.
McCollum, who suffered a foot fracture in a mid-January matchup against the Hawks, was cleared for contact practice just before the All-Star Game. Prior to his exit from lineup, McCollum was averaging a career-best 26.7 points per game.
You can read the Powell’s full midseason review of the Blazers by clicking here.