The NBA is set to return at the end of the month, and 22 of the league’s 30 teams will complete the season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Over the next few weeks, hypothetical scenarios will be released to examine how each of the remaining 22 teams could win the NBA title.
Out of all the teams that were not in playoff position before the season was halted, the Portland Trail Blazers may have the most feasible road to a championship.
The Trail Blazers made it to the Western Conference Finals last season and are finally healthy with Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic returning from injuries.
In this scenario, they navigate a tough schedule through their final eight games and go 5-3, picking up a big win over the eighth-seed Memphis Grizzlies in their first game back.
Portland earns a spot in a play-in tournament with the Grizzlies and uses a mix of their experience and clutch shots from Damian Lillard to snag the final playoff spot in the West.
In the first round, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers await. The Lakers look past the Trail Blazers to a potential second-round matchup with the Houston Rockets, and Portland jumps out to a 2-0 series lead.
However, the Lakers quickly get back into the series with two blowout victories. In past years, Portland would’ve fallen out of a series in which they lost momentum, but this time the addition of Carmelo Anthony proves invaluable.
Anthony puts the team on his back in Game 5, dropping 43 points in a monumental win.
In Game 6, as we have seen in the past, Lillard shows up when he is most needed. “Dame Time” knocks down a series-clinching dagger with under a minute to play, forcing the Lakers to make an unexpected early exit from the bubble in Orlando.
The second round pits Portland against the Rockets. This is a very exciting matchup, with both teams trading punches in a battle of high-powered offenses. In the end, the 1-2-3 punch of Lillard, Anthony, and C.J. McCollum proves to be too much for Houston to handle, and Portland wins in seven.
The Western Conference Finals is a rematch of last season’s conference semifinals between the Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets bring a strong, young core into the series, but Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic, and Hassan Whiteside are able to control superstar Nikola Jokic. With Jokic neutralized, Portland is able to win the series in five.
In the Finals, the Trail Blazers face off against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks are a very strong team, but the Trail Blazers come into the series intending to make someone other than Giannis beat them. At first the strategy doesn’t seem to work, and the Bucks torch them for 19 threes in a Game 1 victory.
But the Trail Blazers eventually start to see some return on their investment, as Lillard and McCollum combine for 62 in a comfortable win to tie the series.
The rest of the Finals are controlled by Portland, as they continue to put up impressive offensive numbers behind Lillard, McCollum, and Anthony. The Trail Blazers win the title in six games, and Carmelo Anthony finally captures that elusive first ring.
Portland has experience on their side, not to mention three bona fide scoring machines in Lillard, McCollum, and Anthony. They also will benefit from having a fully healthy roster. If Anthony is able to play at a high level, the Trail Blazers will be a threat to every team they face in Orlando.