2016-17 in review: 41-41, lost to the Golden State Warriors in four games.
Key Offseason Losses: G Allen Crabbe
2017-18 Projected Starting Lineup: PG Damian Lillard, SG C.J. McCollum, SF Maurice Harkless, PF Al-Farouq Aminu , C Jusuf Nurkic
2017-18 Season Outlook: Despite the best efforts of Portland stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to recruit Carmelo Anthony, the Blazers will enter the 2017-18 season with roughly the same roster. It’s a roster that’s made the playoffs in consecutive seasons, but one that comes with a number of question marks as well.
Lillard and McCollum — two of the top 20 players in points per game last year — are good enough to perpetually keep their team in the playoff conversation, but not elite enough to vault them into being title contenders without a third star.
The Blazers front office attempted to bring in that star by giving a massive contract to small forward Evan Turner last summer. But that was a failure by any measure, with Turner having an extremely disappointing first season in Portland. Now they feel they may have that star in center Jusuf Nurkic, who they acquired from the Denver Nuggets at last year’s trade deadline. Nurkic may be a huge factor for the Blazers in 2017-18, but he may also miss time due to his leg injury, or his excellent performance in 20 games for Portland last year may not hold up over a full season.
After that, the Blazers’ star backcourt is only supported by overpaid and underwhelming bigs like Meyers Leonard, Ed Davis, and Noah Vonleh, and limited wings like Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. They also got nothing in return for Crabbe, a shooting guard who, despite his flaws, played solid minutes for the team last year.
Portland is going to need an outstanding season from Nurkic, or major improvement from Lillard or McCollum in order to improve on last year’s win total. And with a vastly improved Western Conference to compete with, 41 wins may not be enough to earn another playoff berth if they can get there. A postseason trip is crucial for an expensive team who isn’t as young as they used to be, and if they fall short, major changes could be in store.
Projected Strengths: Shooting, athleticism.
Projected Weaknesses: Defense, depth in the front court.
Projected Win Total: 38 wins.