So Kevin Durant is no longer on the Warriors and it is actually fair now since the NBA had absolutely no answer for them the previous 2 seasons and let’s be realistic if Kevin Durant was available all series the Golden State Warriors 3-Peat and we would not be saying Kawhi Leonard has surpassed LeBron James who has held the crown as the number 1 player in the game for a span of 8-9 years which is absolutely historical and speaks to how great of a player LeBron is. LeBron has a superstar by his side now in Anthony Davis who most would consider the best big
man in the game at the moment but I just don’t see the Lakers winning it all this season and it’s not because LeBron will be over the hill, it’s the fact that he has a player option for the final season of his deal and why would Anthony Davis opt to sign long-term knowing this? Who is really expecting LeBron and AD to win the championship the next 2 seasons with Kawhi Leonard,Kevin Durant,and James Harden all having good enough casts to take him out.
Enough about the Lakers because I just wanted to get the most predictable team to have a chance at the title out of the way, the Portland Trailblazers will be crowned 2020 NBA Champions and here is why. I understand they got romped by the Golden State Warriors even without Kevin Durant in the lineup but Kevin Durant,Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston are no longer on the Warriors. Those were 3 wings which can switch 1 through 3 pretty much and defend multiple positions, that is 3 athletes the Warriors lost and their defense will not be as great. The Trailblazers were up 15 plus points in about 3 of those 4 games they just had no answer for the Warriors motion offense sans Kevin Durant. I don’t believe the Golden State Warriors will be dominant because even without Durant in the picture, Livingston and Iguodala were 2 wings which were crucial to limiting Lillard and CJ on drives throughout that series.
Year after year Damian Lillard takes a defeat, he was defeated by the New Orleans Pelicans and Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo put on a defensive exhibition which left the Blazers with no other options to carry the offense, this past season Damian Lillard is defeated by the only point guard you could really make an argument for being better than Lillard which is Curry. The Blazers traded for Kent Bazemore and re-signed Rodney Hood, that gives them 2 3 point shooters who can get their own shot and space the floor out for both CJ and Dame. Bazemore and Rodney are not elite defenders by any stretch of the imagination but they can hold their own against opposing shooting guards and small forwards due to their size and athleticism. Another underrated signing was Pau Gasol who is in the same stage as Vince Carter is in his career, possibly playing out his last season in the NBA but even at his current age he is a better rim-protector and arguably a better rebounder than Enes Kanter was.
That is no knock on Enes Kanter who I believe is probably the worse big in the game on the defensive side of the ball, he tries but his lateral movement is absolutely horrible and he gets left in the dust on pick and rolls and switching on to guards on the perimeter. Pau Gasol can at least block shots and is a willing passer and decend shooter, not sure what the Blazers’ plans are with Hassan Whiteside who at this point is what he is, I reckon back to his breakout game off the bench when he was made his debut and he tallied 23 points and 13 rebounds off the bench and I thought to myself man the Miami Heat just found their center for the next 5-6 years. He wanted more touches within Spoelstra’s system but never really quite proved to be the scorer he said he could be, he had an infinite amount of opportunity to establish himself and the Heat gave up, some expect him to bring out his best under now that he is playing with a superstar like Lillard but I would bet against it.
Jusuf Nurkic is the key, I know CJ McCollum can get me 25-30 points a night but Jusuf Nurkic is the key. Nurkic is an elite rim protector, he can haul down 12-20 rebounds any given night and get you 20-30 points so long he is healthy and available to play 30-35 minutes a night. I remember he scored 37 points and hauled down 20 rebounds a few years back and he was not available for the Blazers this past postseason and the first round of the 2017 West Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors. I love his passing out of the post and he was a legitimate 7 footer with a refined skill-set which most current starting centers lack. When I look at Nurkic he reminds me of Jokic just more physical and more athletic, Jokic is a better passer,ball handler, and better overall player but Nurkic is good enough to be your 3rd option. Is he better than Jokic? No, Jokic is a rising superstar in the NBA and will make his share of All-NBA 1st teams, Nurkic does not have that sort of ceiling but he does not have to be the best player on the team because Lillard is just that.
Whether they keep Hassan Whiteside or trade him at the trade dealine along with some other pieces I like the Blazers’ depth. 4 years from now Anfernee Simons will be Damian Lillard’s successor but the kid can contribute right now and get you 15-20 points off the bench and play a Spencer Dinwiddie role for the Blazers as a combo guard who can provide a scoring punch off the bench and create shots for others. Zach Collins has worked all summer to get himself ready to be much more than just a big that can get you 12 points and 8 rebounds. I think Zach Collins has the potential to be one of the best 2 way players in the game, he looks like a tall math teacher but the kid has a Dirk Nowitzki like release and a really good arc on his jumpshot so I am looking forward to seeing how far along as he has come in his development.
To conclude I like the Blazers’ depth over any other teams in the NBA, I know it sucks to see LeBron James once again fail to win a championship but I no longer see LeBron James like I did 2 years ago, you can’t beat father-time and LeBron is no longer the super human I saw smoking everyone in transition on his way to rim-rattling dunks and being an absolute predator on the defensive end and yes I am aware he is very motivated to prove he is much more than just the 3rd best player in the game. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sounds amazing but the Clippers lack play-making around those two. James Harden and Westbrook? Do we remember Mike D’Antoni is coaching? I don’t see how he manages those 2 egos but I could be completely wrong. I just like the way this Blazers team is built, Pau Gasol gives them that championship pedigree and Damian Lillard in my opinion is the best leader in the game pound for pound. An elite 3 point shooter and in my eyes the best point guard in the game, it’s Dame Time.