For the past few seasons, the Portland Trail Blazers have been a consistent playoff team. 2018-2019 was another case for consistency, as the team went 53-29, placing 3rd in the Western Conference. They made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals but lost the powerhouse Golden State Warriors in a four-game sweep.

The team still has stars in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum leading the charge. They did not make any huge signings in free agency but the team made some moves to improve their bench presence, signing Mario Hezonja and Pau Gasol while trading for Kent Bazemore. The team also traded for Hassan Whiteside, giving the team a solid starting center until Jusuf Nurkić comes back from his broken leg he suffered in the playoffs.

Here is how the roster stands heading into opening night.

Point Guards

Credit: John Leyba/Associated Press
  • Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard is one of my favorite players in the league. Coming from a small school in Weber State, he has established himself as a star right out of the gate and is the cornerstone to the Blazers franchise. With four All-Star nods, four All-NBA Team selects and 2013 Rookie of the Year award under his belt, the resume speaks for itself. A 30 point scorer that rarely misses games (lowest games played in a season was 73 back in 2017-2018), he makes the team better when he is on the court.

Shooting Guards

Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
  • Kent Bazemore
  • Rodney Hood
  • CJ McCollum
  • Anfernee Simons
  • Gary Trent Jr.

While Lillard is the star, McCollum is right behind him. The former Lehigh Mountain Hawk has helped form one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Much like Lillard, McCollum has the potential to score 30 a night with ease that also rarely misses games (lowest games played in a season is 38, his rookie season back in 2013-14). Bazemore was acquired from the Atlanta Hawks in a trade with Evan Turner and provides a nice scoring boost off the bench. Hood was re-signed this past offseason and provides another scoring option off the bench.

Simons is a player you should keep an eye on. He is a former first-round pick from 2018 that instead of playing college beforehand, he skipped college to train for the 2018 NBA Draft. He ended up only playing 20 games his rookie season but we have to remember that he was ranked 9th in all of high school ball recruits. He has the talent, let’s see if he can finally develop into the player Portland hopes for when they drafted him. Trent Jr. is heading into his second season and will look to provide depth at both guard spots.

Small Forwards

Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
  • Mario Hezonja
  • Jaylen Hoard *Two-Way
  • Nassir Little

The small forwards are completely different this time around. Hezonja was a former 5th overall selection in 2015 and while he has not turned out into the next great superstar, he is still a quality role player that the Blazers will use this season. Little was drafted 25th overall in 2019 and look to be a future starter for the team but he may have to develop for a season or two before they hand him the starting nod. Hoard went undrafted in 2019 and will look to earn a full-time roster spot as the season progresses.

Power Forwards

Credit: Aaron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
  • Zach Collins
  • Skal Labissière
  • Anthony Tolliver

Collins the lead man in the power forward group. The former 2017 first-round pick will look to finally make the huge jump this season and has the chance to be in the running for the Most Improved Player award. Labissière is a young PF that will look to earn a roster spot while Tolliver is a veteran that’ll provide leadership to this team.

Centers

Credit: Abbie Parr/Getty Images
  • Moses Brown *Two-Way
  • Pau Gasol
  • Jusuf Nurkić
  • Hassan Whiteside

Nurkić was penciled in as the starting center but a broken left leg will have him miss the season for at least the first half of the season. In the meantime, they’ll have Whiteside as the starter. Whiteside had his moments but fell out of the rotation in Miami despite having a huge contract. I believe he is in a better position in Portland, as Miami likes to run a small ball lineup compared to Portland, who uses a lot of centers. A solid shot blocker that’ll benefit in the pick ‘n’ roll game with Lillard and McCollum.

At 39, Gasol is on the tail end of his career and finds himself in a position where he will not be asked to do a lot but can still contribute from time to time. His history of winning will only help this team in hopes of finally winning a championship for the first time since 1977. Brown went undrafted in 2019 and his impressive preseason led the team to convert his contract to a two-way deal, that way the team does not need to cut him and his spot on the roster will not count towards the 15-man roster.

Coach

Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports

Terry Stotts has been a solid coach in the NBA that does not get talked about a lot. He has made the playoffs every season since being named the head man back in 2012. While it does help to have a backcourt in Lillard and McCollum, we still need to give credit to what he has down the players he has had.

Projected Lineup/Roster Cuts

  • PG: Damian Lillard
  • SG: CJ McCollum
  • SG/SF: Rodney Hood
  • PF: Zach Collins
  • C: Hassan Whiteside
  • Sixth Man: Kent Bazemore
  • Key Role Players: Anfernee Simons, Mario Hezonja, Anthony Tolliver
  • Rest of the Bench: Nassir Little, Pau Gasol, Gary Trent Jr., Skal Labissière
  • Injured: Jusuf Nurkić
  • Two-Way Players: Jaylen Hoard, Moses Brown
  • Roster Cuts: Keljin Blevins, Troy Caupain, London Perrantes

A very good lineup in my opinion from top to bottom. It starts with the dynamic backcourt but guys like Collins, Hood, and Whiteside complete this starting five nicely. The bench of Bazemore, Simons, and Hezonja, for example, provide a nice scoring boost, which is something Portland has been missing for the last few seasons.

Despite a tough Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers will make the playoffs once again. I still think they are missing one more player to make them a championship-caliber team. Still, they make the playoffs and the backcourt and improved bench can make this a sneaky team to make a deep playoff run.

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