Despite an underwhelming 2021-22 season in the absence of star point guard Damian Lillard (abdomen), the Portland Trail Blazers are expected to be competitive in their upcoming 2022-23 campaign. Lillard’s return and the highly-anticipated arrival of forward Jerami Grant, as well as some in-house development, could spell success in the Western Conference.
How much success exactly? That, of course, remains to be seen. It is August after all. However, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Kevin Pelton expect Portland to be among teams going “all-in” on making it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
“Portland […] is still trying to build contending teams around Damian Lillard, as exhibited by re-signing Jusuf Nurkic, trading for Jerami Grant and inking Lillard to a massive two-year extension. A first-round playoff series win would be viewed as a massive step forward.”
Bontemps notes that each team in this category – which also includes the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Timberwolves – has sacrificed future draft capital in order to focus their efforts on present-day promise. Most notably, in Portland’s case, the acquisition of Grant cost a 2025 first-round draft pick (via Milwaukee), a 2025 second-round draft pick, a 2026 second-round draft pick, and the draft rights to Italian pro Gabriele Procida.
A second-round playoff berth could be realistic for the Trail Blazers, who are viewed as a wildcard among optimists this year. Grant’s fit and consequent production may dictate Portland’s overall competitiveness, and little is known about incoming rookie and No. 7 overall draft pick Shaedon Sharpe. Portland is primed to surprise more than most.
Regardless, the Trail Blazers’ sights are aimed higher in this year and years to come, as their ultimate goal remains to win a championship with Lillard at the helm.