If you can believe it, the NBA season is just around the corner. That’s a fact. And since it’s been forever since we’ve seen half of the league in action, we had an idea. In the spirit of reminding ourselves that time is moving forward, let’s look ahead to the 2021 NBA Season, team-by-team. Let’s dive in.
The Portland Trail Blazers
2020 Record: 35-39
2020 Finish: 15th in the NBA, 8th in the Western Conference.
How It Started
The Portland Trail Blazers kicked off their 50th NBA season hot off an appearance in the Western Conference Final the spring prior. Expectations were high and while they didn’t deliver an end result that improved upon 2019’s finish, they held their own in what ended up being a very bizarre NBA year. Injuries stood in the way of success for the Blazers. Season-ending injuries to Zach Collins and Rodney Hood, along with both CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard missing long stretches, saw Portland playing catch up most of the season.
Strong play in the bubble helped The Trail Blazers climb to and clinch the 8th seed in the West with a 35-39 record. Monster games from Damian Lillard helped that along. Including a 61 point performance which came 2 days after he netted 51 points. Dame is now only the 2nd player in NBA history with 3 60 point games in a season. Still, the Blazers were ousted in 5 games to the eventual champion Lakers.
How It’s Going
Portland went big on depth in the offseason. So much so that NBA analyst Sekou Smith has them on his list of 8 true contenders in 2021. It started with the re-signing of veteran Forward Carmelo Anthony and Rodney Hood. Center Enes Kanter rejoins the Blazers for a second stint after a 3-team trade with Boston and Memphis. And if all that wasn’t enough, the biggest splash move the Blazers made was sending Trevor Ariza and a first-round pick in 2020 and 2021 (lottery protected) to Houston for defensive-minded Small Forward Robert Covington.
With all those depth moves combined with a core of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Gary Trent Jr who excelled within his added role with the club this year helping out a second unit that should see Hood, Kanter, and Melo and it’s hard not to get excited about the Trail Blazers in 2021.
As last season clearly demonstrated anything can happen in the NBA. As for Portland specifically, they should be a top offensive threat in 2021. They have the depth to better weather any rash of injuries that may befall them, but the overall health of the team including the core will be key to their success this year. The Denver Nuggets took the big step forward in 2020, not unlike Portland did one year prior. I expect them to be a force in the Northwest. Utah has proven pesky this past year and there is always the Thunder to worry about. But if all holds I like the Trail Blazers to win the division on the backs of a strong core and great depth. The question is will this be the year, at long last, we finally see another Championship come to Rip City?
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