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How Many Players Are the Trail Blazers “Away”?

Portland’s general manager says they’re close to contending. Do you agree?

Brooklyn Nets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers are headed into the 2022-23 season with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. Just yesterday we heard that Damian Lillard is feeling more hearty and hale than ever, that rookie Shaedon Sharpe’s shoulder injury will not require surgery, and that James Harden is staying with the Philadelphia 76ers and will not be messing up Portland’s mojo this year.

OK, that last one wasn’t going to happen anyway, but still!

Most importantly, we’ve gotten some post Summer League reflections from Trail Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin, who is telling media members that he likes what his team has accomplished this summer, but he doesn’t think they’re in final form yet. Cronin suggested that the Blazers are still a move or two away. We don’t know what those are yet, but presumably he has a clue.

Is Cronin’s premise, correct, though? Plenty of NBA observers are skipping over the Blazers practically even while they golf clap for them in theory. The idea is that the Blazers have gotten better, but are still well short of good.

This creates a tug-o-war of sorts. Are the Blazers a single move from getting better, or are they still miles away?

Here’s Portland’s roster as it stands:

PG—Damian Lillard

SG—Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, Shaedon Sharpe, Keon Johnson

SF— Nassir Little, Gary Payton II, Greg Brown III, Didi Louzada

PF—Jerami Grant, Justise Winslow, Trendon Watford, Jabari Walker

C—Jusuf Nurkic, Drew Eubanks

Here’s the question for the day. Looking at that lineup, how many players away are the Blazers? One? Two? More?

Personally, I don’t think they’re as close as Cronin does, but I don’t think they’re automatically at a dead end like they were a couple years ago. My answer would be that they’re one really good small forward away from being significant enough to notice. I’m not sure if that would mean a title, but at least you could see the door crack open from there. A 3-and-D three, heavy on the “D”, would go a long way towards solidifying their lineup. The caveat is, that’s got to be a REALLY GOOD player, and those are hard to get.

What’s your answer, though? Have at it in the comment section below!