Another Blazers season has concluded, and it was certainly one to remember. Unfortunately, it was one to remember for all of the wrong reasons. From a disappointing start by star point guard Damian Lillard to getting unlucky in the draft lottery, this season is one that Portland fans hope they will never have to experience again.
Heading into the season, a majority of fans expected Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers to take a leap forward from the previous season, where they came up short in the first round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets. However, it became clear as the season progressed that this would not be the case. While trying to adjust to a new head coach in Chauncey Billups, a new (and what was expected to be an improved) roster, and the small glimpse of normalcy in the return of a full capacity crowd all year long, the Blazers were immediately dealt multiple other challenges. Lillard was fighting through injuries in the beginning of the season and would go on to shoot a career low 32.9% from deep in just twenty-nine games. With new head coach Chauncey Billups struggling to find any consistency in the rotation, that must have factored into Lillard’s struggles in finding a rhythm on offense. While the Blazers and Dame were battling through their early difficulties, Billups was unsure on whether to rest or play Lillard and ultimately made the injury worse than it could have been. No injury is ever a good thing, especially when it’s your city’s hero, like Lillard is for Portland.
However, it is possible that good can come from it in the long run. With Lillard being ruled out, Anfernee Simons was given a unique opportunity to step up and become the man in Portland. He wasted no time filling the starting point guard role, and was in the running for most improved player all year long. Simons averaged career highs in many per game stats including points (17.3), rebounds (2.6), assists (3.9), and steals (0.5). Despite having the best season of his career, the Blazers knew they were unable to contend for a championship this season. The media did not hesitate to stir up fake trade rumors involving Dame, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and nearly everyone within the Blazers organization. And after it was announced that Damian Lillard would miss the remainder of the regular season, the Blazers front office decided it was time to blow it up. They would go on to trade key players such as Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the LA Clippers (in return for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a second round pick) , and of course CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans as well. As expected, many Portland fans reacted with displeasure to these decisions. But is going into reload mode the best option for the Blazers after all? Of course there are pros and cons to every major trade decision, yet it felt like fans were only pointing out the cons. With the decision to trade away Powell, Covington, McCollum, and others, the Blazers are set to have more salary cap space than the franchise has had in decades. This allows them to go after big name free agents in the offseason which they have been unable to do in recent years. “It’s unclear right now as to who Portland will go after, but they have made it obvious with their recent trades that they’re about to get Damian Lillard some support. Some big moves are coming for the Blazers,” said sports analyst Jet Jackson. With Dame injured and other stars being traded elsewhere, it was clear the Blazers were going to be in the running with the first overall pick in one of the deepest and most talented NBA draf
t classes that the league has ever seen. However, in typical Blazers fashion, they would get unlucky in the NBA draft lottery and end up with the seventh pick in this year’s draft despite having one of the highest chances at a top five draft pick.
At the end of the day, all of the decisions the Blazers made this year are long term moves. We have no way of knowing how they will all turn out for the organization other than patiently waiting. For now, us Blazers fans have to trust our franchise’s expertise and believe that things will get better for our favorite team.