It has been over six weeks since the Blazers were swept in the western conference finals by the Warriors. The Draft has passed. Free agency has opened. The Blazers have dramatically changed the composition of their team. Welcome to the July 2019 edition of Blazersland Mailbag.

 

Blazers starting 5 day 1(assuming everyone is healthy) TorturedBlazerFan

Well, we know Jusuf Nurkic is not going to be ready day 1. Everyone else seems likely. So, with that in mind the Blazers starting 5 day 1 is:

PG: Damian Lillard
SG: CJ McCollum
SF: Kent Bazemore/Rodney Hood
PF: Zach Collins
C: Hassan Whiteside

The only position in question is small forward. Zach Collins is more than certainly Aminu’s successor at power forward. There is little question there.

Small forward will come down to Bazemore or Hood. Stotts could also start Hezonja there. We will probably see each of them start there at some point in the season.

Stotts could test it out and experiment with these guys. One could win out the spot in training camp. Or Stotts could go by senority. Hood was on the team last year. Stotts is most comfortable with him. Terry leans towards familiarity.

That said, Hood is a 6th man type player. He could potentially be better off the bench. Bazemore who was a starter for the Hawk could remain a starter with Portland.

While Hezonja could at some point start at the three he will likely be a bench player. He will be needed as a back up power foward and point with his versaility.

So, taking these points into consideration, I lean towards Bazemore as Portland’s starting small forward.

 

I don’t think the Lakers make the playoffs without Kawhi. – joeBlazers

That is an interesting assertion joeBlazers. Let’s look at your reasoning.

1. Lebron will miss 20 games (Age,injuries,load managment,etc)
2. Anthony Davis will miss 10 games. (He is no Iron man)
3. I don’t see how Lebron + AD + Scrubs can win a game in the west. Lebron and AD might have to play 48 minutes and score 50 points to win.
4. To make the playoffs 50 games will be needed. I don’t see how this Lakers team will win 50 games in the west.
5. The Jazz, Rockets, Blazers, Nuggets, Warriors, Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers have all gotten better or stayed put.
6. The Mavericks, Kings, and Pelicans have improved.
7. When the Lakers play east teams they will have to beat the Raptors, Celtics, Bucks, 76ers, Nets, and Pacers.

If Kawhi goes to the Lakers, this is all moot. As it is you make good points. Still, even without Kawhi, Lebron and AD coukd be potent. AD got to the playoffs in New Orleans without another star.

The Lakers were terrible last year. They finished 37-45. Many thought they would make the playoffs. I was not one of those many. Lebron + young scrubs didn’t have me convinced. Many argued that he dragged Cleveland to the playoffs. True, but he had some experienced veteran teamates to help…kind of.

To your first two points, it is almost certain Lebron and Davis won’t play 82 games. Lebron has only played a full 82 games in 1 season out of the 16 he has played. (His last year in Cleveland) He played a 81 and an 80 game season earlier in his career. He only played in 55 games last season. In the last 5 years he has averaged 71 games a season. It is safe to say he will miss at least 10 games. 20 may be a stretch or not. Last season could be an anonmaly or age could be a factor. Maybe it is a sign Lebron is finally in decline.

Anthony Davis has never played 82 games in his seven seasons. He only played in 56 last season, and averages 66.5 games a season for his career. He is far more injury prone than Lebron. It is likely he will miss a spate of games, probably more than Lebron.

To your third point, the west got tougher. The season will be a physical and grueling battle this side of the Mississipi. Can Lebron, AD, and co perservere. Maybe if they have the help of officials which is likely. But, it will be tough none the less and may prove too much for the Lakers.

It probably depends on the “Scrubs”. The Lakers may be able to sign some cheap talent even if Kawhi doesn’t come. Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Korver, etc are usuable players that could make things easier on the Lakers star Players. The Lakers somehow didn’t have to give up Kuzma in the Davis deal. He helps. So it depends on the players they put around Lebron and Davis. Without Kawhi the Lakers might see lesser players join as those above players choose to go elsewhere.

I agree to make the playoffs teams will need to win around 50 games. There were a few teams who made the playoffs this year who won just under 50, in the high 40’s. It will be tough for the Lakers to get there without Kawhi. I could see them making a lower seed though.

Yes, the Jazz and Blazers got better. The Warriors I would argue got worse. Yeah, they still have a handful of All Stars in Curry, Thompson, Green, and Russell. They Lost Durant and Iguodala as well as Cousins (not that he made them better) and some bench guys. They are still good, but not as good. Beatable.

The Nuggets, Rockets, Spurs,Thunder, and Clippers have retained players will be in the hunt again for the playoffs next season. The Kings, Pelicans, and Mavericks did get better and will win a few more games, but won’t be a threat for the Playoffs.

It will be decidely tough for the Lakers next season sans Kawhi. I remain unconvinced that they will make the playoffs without Leonard. That said, as much disdain as I have for the Lakers, they are getting better. The NBA wabts to renew the dominance of one of their best market teams. Evil rises, so the Lakers may make the playoffs even though the odds remain against them.

 

Will the Blazers make it as far as they did last year? 53 wins? 3rd seed? WCF’s? So much turnover concerns me. – Char C

The Blazers got better this offseason no doubt. They replaced Turner, Harkless, Aminu, Layman, Kanter, Curry, Leonard, with Bazemore, Whiteside, Hezonja, Tolliver, and resigned Hood.

They are a better shooting team, a better defensive team. I can understand the concern though. One thing the Blazers lost is chemistry. The players on the team had been together for years. They had developed strong bonds and friendships. That goes a long way in winning. That trust. How much did it go into the Blazers making the WCF’s last season?

With all but 6 players leaving that begs to question how will these new players fit in? How will chemistry be effected? Some of the incoming players are friends with those who are staying. For example CJ and Whiteside. Still, we will have to wait and see how it works out. Olshey is going all in. It makes one nervous, but it is also exciting. It hurts to see players we have gotten use to and like leave. It’s hard.

Portland got better. I expect them to win close to the same amount of games. It will be tough without Nurkic for a portion of the season. Whiteside helps with that. Portland has less depth but more talent. I could see them winning 50 + games, getting 3rd or maybe higher, and getting as far in the playoffs. Kawhi going to the Lakers or not will effect Oortland’s path there. We will see.

 

What is the Blazers cap situation after all these moves? -Wizard Mentor

With all of the Blazers offseason moves (trading Turner, Harkless, Leonard, Layman for Bazemore and Whiteside, and signing Hood, Hezonja, Little, and Tolliver, the Blazers are deep in luxury tax. They are at just over $145 million in salary. They will be paying $24 million in taxes as is. They will sign two more players at the minimum.

Jody Allen seems willing to pay for a winner. Olshey is going all in. Though, he will likely work to get under the tax by the trade deadline. The Blazers are not repeaters, so it’s not a grave concern and we could see the Blazers still above the tax threshold after Febuary. You have to pay to win. The Blazers space is used up and they can’t sign anyone else to their final two spots except for at the minimum.

 

Who is expiring? What does it mean for next offseason? -Wizard Mentor

Bazemore, Whiteside, Labissiere, Tolliver, and Hoard are expiring after this season. Hezonja and Hood have player options. If Portland doesn’t trde anyone at the deadline which is unlikely, the Blazers will have a nice chunk of cap space to go aftee free agents if they release cap holds on their free agents.

More likely, the Blazers mive at least Whiteside at the deadline for someone like Kevin Love. Bazemore could go to along with some new players as fillers to get Portland upgrades signed long term and to possibly get under the tax threshold.

 

Which of the new Players come with bird rights? – Wizard Mentor

The Blazers now own Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside’s bird rights. They were on their respective teams for at least three years before being traded, therefore they attained bird rights with Atlanta/Miami. Those rights came in tbe trades. The Blazers will have early bird tights for Hood next summer.

 

Overall did the Blazers improve or regress this offseason? – Bryan B

The Blazers improved. They got rid of players who didn’t fit, didn’t play up to their potential, and who were inconsistent, injury prone, and a liability to the team. They replaced them with upgrades. The Blazers are better on both ends of the floor. They will have to figure out chemistry, but it shouldn’t be a problem.

The Blazers have more options on offense. Teams will still double team Lillard and CJ until it doesn’t work. I have a feeling that is going to get harder for opponents to do next season. They no longer have guys like Aminu and Turner that they can be left open. The Blazers have shooters and guys that can get to the basket with ease. Respect is earned and it will be earned this season. Mark my words.

 

Nurkic has looked really positive and is working hard at his rehab with rumors he could be back sooner than expected. When will the Blazers provide an official update on his recovery? When do you think he will be back? -Orion Bailey

Nurk is ahead of schedule. He is healing quickly and surprising the Blazers coaches and front office with his recovery. Still, Gordon Hayward had a similar break at the beginning of the previous season. It took him more than a year to comeback.

To answer your first question, I don’t know when the Blazers will provide an update. I assume they will try and keep quiet on the issue as long as possible. They have been very private about Jusuf Nurkic. They will remain so.

As for your second question, I think he will be back around the trade deadline. He still needs to time to heal and to get back to his old self. We won’t see him play the first part of the season. We might not see him till the playoffs who knows.

I have a feeling he will be back sooner than people expect.

 

Who will be the bench favorite on the Blazers this upcoming season? – TorturedBlazerFan

Good question. Anfernee Simons. A lot of fans are worried he won’t be able to live up to expectations now that Curry is gone and his time has come. I think he is ready and is going to delight fans with his play.

We already have seen what Simons can do, when he played a full 48 minutes in the Blazers final game of last season against the Kings. What a treat! He had 37 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds. He shot lights out. He is going to be the biggest fan favorite off the bench easy.

Rodney Hood and Skal Labisiere are ither candidates. Hood may start, butbI see him as more of sixth man who can bring much needed energy off the bench. He is the kind of guy fans love.

Skal Labisiere is young. We haven’t seen him play much since the Blazers traded Caleb Sawnigan for him. He had 29 points and 15 rebounds in 41 minutes of play in the Kings game along side Simons. He will be fun to watch.

 

What do you think of Nassir Little? Can he contribute immediately? – Josh P

Little is a compelling player. He is an atheltic player with a higher than the sky ceiling. The Blazers couldn’t not pick him. He was an absolute gift at #25.

He was a high school star, an all american, but he struggled in his single year in North Carolina. He shot poorly (35% from the field, 27% from three) but he showed an explosiveness that helped him rocket to the basket past defenders where he took most of his shots.

He has tbe potential to be a strong defensive player. He is a bit slow, but the 6’6 forward has the weight and size (224 pounds, 7’1 wingspan) to defend several positions. He can also be a deft rebounder, using his weight to make space to grab boards. He is an assidious and dillgent player.

Still, can he contribute immediately? Maybe. Probably not. He will likely need a year or two to become accustom to playing at the NBA level. He could surprise and play better than expected. He was supposed to be a lottery player. His college performance knocked him down. But, make no mistake this kid is talanted. Watch out. I can’t wait to see him play in summer league along with Portland’s other youth.

 
That is the July 2019 edition of Blazersland Mailbag. If you want to see your questions answered in the next edition, submit them via the mailbag form at Blazersland.com/submit-questions/ -OR- by emailing them directly to mailbag@blazersland.com

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