Where Do The Portland Trail Blazers Fit Into The New Look NBA?

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The NBA season is underway and there are new faces on teams throughout the league. This off-season was filled with twists and turns landing multiple star players on different franchises. Russell Westbrook is now a Rocket, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined forces in Brooklyn, Anthony Davis is a Laker, and Kawhi Leonard teamed up with Paul George on the Clippers. This is the first season in quite some time that the Association is well … interesting. And where do the Portland Trail Blazers fit into all this? This article is going to examine three teams in the Western Conference and their chances at making an NBA title run. 

Portland Trail Blazers

Last Year Review

Portland returns to the hardwood this year after an impressive stint last season. They lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors and clearly needed some new talent to suffice. The Blazers return their core in Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. These three players could guarantee that Portland returns to the playoffs again. Lillard is the clear leader of the team and will need to continue improving on defense, if he wants to become an MVP caliber player. The same thing can be said for McCollum. As for Nurkic, my dude needs to stay healthy, if he can stay on the court, he provides crucial offense out of the post. 

What’s New

The Biggest move in Portland’s off-season is the signing of Hassan Whiteside. This may be the one of the most overlooked acquisitions in the league. His ability to defend the paint is a weapon that the Blazers have been missing the last couple of seasons, with him patrolling downlow, the opposition will have to think twice before attacking the lane. Portland has not had a post defender of this caliber since Ed Davis, except Whiteside is more explosive offensively. The combination of Whiteside and Nurkic may boost Portland to the NBA Finals. 

Where Will They Finish

Even though the Blazers improved immensely in the off-season, so did the rest of the Western Conference. Portland will lose in the second round because they won’t be able to defend elite perimeter players. Even though McCollum and Lillard are studs in their own right, they can’t stop guards like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and LeBron James. The addition of Whiteside will help but it won’t be enough to lead Portland to the promise land. 

Los Angeles Lakers

Last Year Review

The first-year experiment of LeBron in Hollywood was disappointing by anybody’s standards. The purple and gold didn’t make the playoffs and never found their rhythm. The combination of young talent in Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball never meshed with “The King”. It didn’t help that trade rumors swirled around the franchise all season. This reached its peak when Pacers fans chanted at Ingram at the free throw line “LeBron’s gonna trade you.” Even though they are all professionals, on a subconscious level this may have bothered the youngsters, it’s not easy to play basketball when you don’t know what city you’re going to be living in. 

What’s New 

Well it turns out the trade rumors were true. On June 15, LA traded for Anthony Davis, sending the fleet of youngsters to the Pelicans. This is arguably the biggest move of the off-season, pairing two of the best players in the league together. LeBron has played with a lot of stars throughout his career, but he’s never had a teammate like Davis. The center can score down low, defend the paint, hit a 15-footer, and has a level head. The combination of these two should result in many wins on the court. If they can find a couple of reliable perimeter shooters, they’ll be tough to beat. 

Where Will They Finish

The Lakers are going to win the NBA Title. LeBron didn’t come to Los Angeles to lose, and the addition of Davis ensures this won’t happen again. Beyond the duo, the Lakers have fielded a complete team mixed with winning veterans and young talent. Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, and Jared Dudley can all shoot the three which will open up space for Davis down low. Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, and Avery Bradley add experience and defense to the team. Los Angeles is too much to handle this year, the rest of the league better be ready. 

The Los Angeles Clippers

Last Year Review 

Without a star player to lead the group the Clippers found themselves in the playoffs last year losing in the first round to the Golden State Warriors. The key to LA’s success was their scrappy defense led by point guard Patrick Beverley. The Clippers exceeded expectations snagging the eighth seed in a loaded western conference, this is a testament to the amazing coaching job by Doc Rivers. He found a way to get them to believe and that’s half the battle right there. Point guard Lou Williams was the Clips most consistent scorer leading the team with 20 points per game, his explosive three shooting fueled the unit. LA traded Tobias Harris to Philadelphia during the middle of last season, he was one of their most talented players. 

What’s New  

Everything… 

The Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard fresh off of a championship with the Toronto Raptors. The addition of Kawhi instantly makes LA a contender, and they now have the star player that they’ve been lacking since the end of the Chris Paul, Blake Griffin era. On top of the Kawhi signing, the Clips also acquired Paul George which is now one of the most formidable backcourts in the NBA. This defensive combination is one unlike the league has seen in quite some team, they have already struck comparisons to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The new look Clippers should be one of the most interesting teams in the league this year. 

Where Will They Finish

The Clippers will be eliminated in the Western Conference Finals. Even though they have arguably the best perimeter combination in the NBA, they still lack an elite post-player to balance out the squad. Power forward Montrezl Harrell is solid but he will not be able to hang with the conference’s top post players in Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokić. The Clippers should prove difficult to beat, but they need one more piece before they’ll contend for the NBA title.

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About Author

Nicholas Bartlett

My name is Nicholas Bartlett I am from Shoreline, Washington (North Seattle). I am 28 years old and a graduate of the Edward R Murrow School of Communications at Washington State University. I am a coach for a 6th grade boys basketball team and a coach for a 5th grade girls basketball team. I also am a assistant coach for a unified basketball team which is associated with the Special Olympics. You can contact me at Nb206wsu@gmail.com.

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