Damian Lillard needs someone else to help win in Portland…or begin to seek employment elsewhere.
Dame is unstoppable. 3s? No problem. Driving the lane? You might as well just let him take it to the hole. He’s going to score either way. Assists? There isn’t a defense capable of containing him. So what’s wrong with the Zers?
I’m not sure where to begin…
Two seasons ago, Portland was primed to contend and in the blink of an eye it all disintegrated into nothing. Batum, Matthews, Aldridge and Lopez all hit the free agency trail because they couldn’t close out in the playoffs. In hindsight, it hasn’t panned out for anyone, and they really could have been a powerhouse with a bit of patience. Now, the Blazers start 3 players every night who would come off the bench for 90% of all other NBA teams.
Every fan wants to see the Blazers win because they’re that hard-nosed team in the West that isn’t the Warriors, Clippers, or Lakers (and they actually have a fan base that knows basketball and deserves a winning franchise). The Zers compete every night. They don’t look at themselves as a rebuilding team, which is great. But when does the front office realize they’re going to need to make some moves to truly contend? The West isn’t light-heated. The West is the strongest conference between the two, and the Zers are living in limbo out in Portland.
Dame has taken the reigns of the Blazers, and has commanded the league’s respect at the guard position. He’s averaging (all career high) 47% FG percentage, 90% FT percentage, 4.9 rebounds per game, and almost 30 pts per game. However, his assist numbers are slacking and this is where the Zers start showing us why they can’t win. They only have Dame, and nothing else. The only other person scoring an average of double digits is CJ McCollum and that’s it. Two players offering you double digits? Not even their center in Mason Plumlee is averaging above 9 pts per game and that’s a huge problem. This might not be a rebuilding squad for Portland, but they’ve got the chance to turn this season around….and it’s a crazy idea… but Demarcus Cousins. The Blazers have the assets and pieces to put together for a worthwhile trade scenario. Do I think it’ll happen? No. Do I want it to? You’re damn right.
With two 2018 first round draft picks, and a number of mid-level players who could help a franchise build and grow (Plumlee/Vonleh/Layman) it doesn’t seem impossible.
Cousins brings rebounds and offense which I really believe would re-energize this lineup. The Blazers need to have a power lineup of at least 3 players that can always be relied upon to win. It cannot fall on the shoulders of one player, and Dame is reminding the league of that every single time someone puts a microphone in his face. Although I respect his game, and I think that when he stayed in the city of Portland when everyone else hit the dusty trail he did the right thing, but he needs to show patience with the front office. Recently, it looks like they’ve left him out to dry, but unless there are some big trades happening this season, I give it (at most) 2 more seasons of struggling before the front office makes strong moves in free agency and the draft. The front office recognizes the potential they have in Dame and aren’t about to squander his talent so easily. With that being said, I’m not sure the Zers will ever offer Dame the chance to win a ring with this franchise. We might see Dame’s career begin and end in Portland without ever claiming one for the city that has embraced him as one of their own.
All in all, the Blazers are scrappy and surprised everyone when they made it to the playoffs last season…but don’t expect any great performances out of them this season. I predict the Blazers finish 9th in the West and take this one on the chin. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but they can’t seem to piece a whole lot of wins together this season. If they do slip into the playoffs, it’ll falter after the first round. I’m told from a Portland super-fan that once “Chief” (Al-Farouq Aminu) steps back on the court that the wins will start pouring in, and I certainly hope she’s right, because they need it.
2016-17 Prediction 9th in the West with 39-43 record.
All stats, numbers and facts are provided from ESPN.com while all predictions, analysis and ideas are intellectual property of the original author.