Damian Lillard put extra pressure on the Blazers to build a winner over the offseason. The team didn’t make a major trade for a star, but it did beef up the bench and improve the defense. The Blazers’ offense was awesome last year after trading for Norman Powell, and now they can turn to Larry Nance Jr. and Cody Zeller to help them get stops on the other end. This is the Blazers’ idea of being all-in, and if it doesn’t work they have to worry about their franchise star looking elsewhere.
Everything clicks and the Blazers recapture some of that 2019, playing over their heads magic that strikes every four years or so. If Larry Nance, Jr. can help on defense, if Jusuf Nurkic can stay healthy and focused, if Norman Powell can score big, the Blazers have a potent Top 7. As long as they don’t have to dig deep into their bench, they can win.
The sum of the parts is just the sum of the parts, and some of them are mismatched. Injuries plague the frontcourt, the backcourt can’t improve defensively, and fractured focus in a new system derails Portland early. Dame Lillard would still score 30, but the results wouldn’t rise to his level, leading to another mediocre season.
The Blazers should look good for stretches and great in certain games. They’ll also struggle with continuity. They don’t have a backstop deep in the bench and they don’t have an experienced coaching staff. Variable play could limit the effect of their upper-rotation talent, leaving them in a middle playoff seed, looking at a first- or second-round exit.
Larry Nance, Jr. should be one of the freshest acquisitions the Blazers have had in years. His mobility and defensive willingness could light a fire under this team. It’s easy to see him becoming a utility sub in the frontcourt this year, taking over a starting position in seasons to come.
Larry Nance Jr
Greg Brown III
Derrick Jones Jr.
Harry Giles III