Portland Trailblazers Playoff Preview

(USA Today)

(USA Today)

The Trailblazers this past offseason lost not only arguably their best player, but they lost 4 of their 5 starters. I went back to look at the preseason power rankings and the Blazers were ranked at 28. They were only expected to be better than the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. The Los Angeles Lakers were predicted to be better. What Terry Stotts has done this year is incredible and the flourishing backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum has spearheaded this team into the playoffs. Lillard has proven himself to be truly an elite talent with the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge and still finding a way to bring this team to the playoffs.

The Blazers rely on their offense to simply put up more points. They rank 7th in offensive efficiency and 20th in defensive efficiency. Oddly enough the lineup they put forth the most actually has a negative net rating. The lineup of Lillard-McCollum-Aminu-Vonleh-Plumlee which they have put out on the floor almost 400 more minutes than any other lineup, has a net rating of -1.7. Their best lineup which has a net rating of 18.3 includes Lillard-McCollum-Aminu-Harkless-Plumlee. Simply exchanging Vonleh for Harkless turns one of their worst lineups into their best one. Why is that you may ask? Well they are a slow team whenever their most used lineup out and there seems to be a correlation there. All of the slower lineups they use have shown to not perform as well as the higher paced lineups. That is partly due to the fact they are led by their backcourt and the more shots you are able to get for those two the better things will be. This could prove to be their downfall in the playoffs if they are unable to play in the slowed down pace of the the playoffs. They struggle to find good shots in half court sets occasionally and it shows.

It would be hard for me to say there is a more unstoppable isolation scorer in the league than Damian Lillard. Lillard is 2nd in the league in points per possession of anyone who has at least 140 possessions in isos and he is the only one in the top 8 with at least 300 possession. It is pretty impressive stuff how lethal he is in one on one situations. His explosive scoring is great enough to steal some games. Having someone who can hit this

or this

Then there is his running mate C.J. McCollum. McCollum has run away with the most improved player of the year award and one hell of a season has he had. This year he is averaging 20.9 points per game 4.2 assists per game with an effective field goal percentage, which accounts for the value of 3s, 51.7%. His 42% from 3 point range has become an important piece of this offense because if you leave the man open he will knock it down. His ability to do a play like this will be huge for this team.

Regardless we should all tune in to any game Lillard stars in because let’s remember what he did two years ago. This team will fight.

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