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Portland Trailblazers 2022/2023 Season Preview

As the trade deadline approached last season, it was hard to know what direction the Blazers were going in.

They had just traded away scoring guard Norman Powell and utility Robert Covington to the Clippers for…well honestly, not a whole lot.

They followed that up by sending CJ McCollum to New Orleans, and then shipped parts of that return package to Utah. As it turns out, the Blazers had a plan though.

This past off-season, they’ve doubled-down on moving pieces around to give their roster a different look, picking up versatile forward Jerami Grant via trade, signing Gary Payton II away from the Champion Golden State Warriors and drafting a promising, albeit unknown quantity, in Shaedon Sharpe. They also committed a heap of money to keep the services of Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons in addition to signing Drew Eubanks in April. The front office clearly had a plan to try to re-invigorate the team in the space of 6 months, and on the surface, they succeeded on that front.

With Damian Lillard accepting his player option for this season, the franchise appears to be firm in trying to build a winning team around him. The various parts do leave some questions unanswered, however.

The Blazers shuffled their roster in the off-season to re-tool around Damian Lillard (right), but I can't help but feel like trading CJ McCollum only to replace him with Anfernee Simons (left) will result in more of the same. Credit: Enanco.

After moving McCollum, the team proceeded to extend Anfernee Simons, another score-first, 6’3” guard to a long-term deal. This essentially gives Lillard the same running mate he’s failed to make deep playoff runs with consistently for the better part of the last decade, leaving me perplexed. The Nurkic signing also confuses me as, despite being a productive big man, he has failed to stay on the court with any regularity throughout his career, managing just 101 games in his past three seasons.

The addition of Grant should help the team at the forward position, a spot they’ve struggled to find meaningful contributions from for several seasons, but overall, a large portion of the rosters most productive members (Lillard, Simons, Grant, Nurkic, Hart, Payton II) and promising youngsters who project as having upside (Shaedon Sharpe and Keon Johnson) will be fighting for minutes in the back-court. This potential imbalance of production could be an issue the longer the season progresses and teams adjust their defensive strategies.

The Blazers have rebounded out of a confusing trade deadline period to reshape the majority of their roster in under 6 months, and should be commended for doing so. They’ve opted to forego a rebuild and the option of cashing in on their aging superstar Damian Lillard in favour of re-tooling around him. The roster construction leaves a little to be desired in my mind, but getting Lillard on the floor for a full season with more options around him can only be a positive thing as the franchise enters the second year of the Billups era.

Ceiling: 7th seed.

Floor: 11th seed.

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