The Trail Blazers are entering their first full year of a massive rebuilding project. Before the start of last season, coach Terry Stotts left and was replaced by Chauncey Billups. They would also lose at least four key players through trades before the season ended. This team is not ready to contend over a full season yet, especially in the unforgiving Western Conference. However, it is a whole new world for the squad that will likely produce a better result compared to last year’s 27-win effort.
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With multiple key pieces gone and only a handful of newcomers, Billups is basically starting from scratch in his second season for the team. The most significant additions would have to be Jerami Grant and Gary Payton II. Grant averaged around 20 points per game in his last two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, while Payton brings in championship experience after winning a ring with the Golden State Warriors.
Eric Bledsoe would have been a perfect veteran to help mentor the rookies, but he was waived. Joe Ingles and Ben McLemore would have been two other key players, but they are no longer with the team. Fans are hoping that their latest draft picks in Shaedon Sharpe and Jabari Walker can contribute right away to help ease the pain of losing valuable players.
The Starting Five
PG – Damian Lillard
SG – Anfernee Simons
SF – Nassir Little
PF – Jerami Grant
C – Jusuf Nurkic
Lillard will need the preseason games to know his teammates all over again. He missed a lot of time last year, so learning to play with the old and new guys on the roster will take a lot of time. A lack of familiarity could be seen as a weakness when the season starts. This is something that the team should solve right away.
Portland has an interesting mix of young talent and experience in their starters, but 2022-23 will likely be known as the first year of a rebuilding process. Since no one is expecting much from them, playing with no pressure could be an advantage. They are now in a prime position to shock the NBA world if they somehow remain competitive.
One Potential Move to Make
Executives of the Trail Blazers should give this new lineup at least a year before thinking about tweaking it again. If they really wanted to add someone, they could think about bringing in Isaiah Thomas. He seems to be NBA-ready based on videos circulating on social media. The team could use his point guard skills off the bench. Thomas is also from nearby Seattle, so joining the team wouldn’t be a logistical problem at all.
The franchise is barely recognizable anymore, and that is not a bad thing. Clearly, the old way was not working, and a restart was necessary. The early phases of this rebuild will not be pretty, though. It will require a lot of patience, and there is no timetable for contention. We all know that a turnaround will not happen overnight.
Season Prediction: 41-41, might make the Play-In Tournament
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