NBA Daily: Grading the Offseason – Portland Trail Blazers

David Yapkowitz continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series by taking a look at the Portland Trail Blazers.

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Updated 12 months ago on
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We’re moving right along this week with our “Grading the Offseason” series here at Basketball Insiders. Next up on our list is the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers have an interesting team. Over the past few years, there’s no question that they’ve been one of the better teams in the tough Western Conference. But they’ve also been one of those teams that are clearly good enough to make the playoffs, but not quite at the level where they can make any serious run once they get there.

That could quite possibly change this upcoming season. With the injuries and departures to the Golden State Warriors, there is no longer a true top tier favorite to win the West. There are a couple of teams that have positioned themselves to potentially make a serious playoff run and the Blazers are one of them.

The West is as wide open as it’s ever been in the past several years. Here’s a look at how the Blazers have managed this offseason.


Overall, the Blazers’ 2018-19 season should be considered a very successful one. Not only did they get their first playoff series win in three years, but they also outlasted a very talented Denver Nuggets team in seven games in the second round, and made it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in almost 20 years.

Although they were eventually swept by the Warriors, they still had a very good year. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum continued to cement themselves as one of the elite backcourts in the NBA. Lillard made his fourth All-Star appearance, and McCollum was for sure a borderline All-Star.

The Blazers also saw solid development from Zach Collins who was their lottery pick from a year ago. Collins turned into an integral part of the rotation as an athletic and outside shooting big man who can thrive in today’s game.

Their midseason acquisition of Rodney Hood from the Cleveland Cavaliers also paid off. Hood was solid throughout the playoffs, including a playoff career-best 25 points in a Game 6 win over the Nuggets. They were able to re-sign Hood this summer, who showed flashes of regaining the form he displayed at times in Utah.


The Blazers began the offseason with a couple of minor, but still decent moves. They signed veteran big man Anthony Tolliver as well as Mario Hezonja.

Tolliver has carved out a niche in the league as a three-point shooting big man, and he’s also a quality veteran to have in the locker room. While his numbers were down a bit in Minnesota this past season, he still shot 37.7 percent from three. He should provide the Blazers with a solid presence off the bench.

Hezonja, on the other hand, was a former top lottery pick who has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he was drafted. He spent a year in New York last season after moving on from Orlando where he showed flashes of inconsistent potential.

Later on in the season, however, when the Knicks set him loose for a few games and let him run the team, he turned in some of the most impressive numbers of his career. For a team that needed some additional wing depth, he’s not too bad an option. At the very least, on a minimum deal, he’s a low-risk, high-reward type signing.

A few weeks ago, the Blazers made another free agent signing, bringing in Pau Gasol. The veteran big man and former All-Star had a couple of injury-plagued seasons recently, but if he is healthy, he can make a difference. Sure, he is pushing 40 years old, but Gasol remains one of the smartest big men in the league and is still a good playmaker. He won’t be asked to do too much in Portland, just to provide a veteran presence and be a steady contributor off the bench.

The Blazers’ big offseason moves, however, came in the form of trades.

As part of the trade that sent Mo Harkless to the Los Angeles Clippers and Meyers Leonard to the Miami HEAT, the Blazers acquired Hassan Whiteside.

Whiteside had a bit of a down year last season, but he is still one of the NBA’s better defensive anchors in the paint and one of the top rebounders. With Jusuf Nurkic likely out for the first half of the season as he rehabs from injury, Whiteside will have the opportunity to regain some of the form that earned him a near $100 million contract a few summers ago.

When Nurkic eventually returns from injury, the Blazers will have a very formidable big man rotation with Nurkic, Collins, Gasol and Whiteside.

The Blazers also traded Evan Turner and his big contract to the Atlanta Hawks for Kent Bazemore. Turner did provide the Blazers with another ball-handler and playmaker off the bench, but Bazemore is a more effective scorer. While not the defensive presence that Al-Farouq Aminu was, Bazemore should be able to come in and perhaps start at small forward right away.

In the draft, the Blazers selected Nassir Little from North Carolina. Little was a very highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He only spent one year at UNC where he wasn’t really used properly. He is still a raw player but has a lot of talent. Little probably won’t get many minutes right away and will spend a lot of time in the G League.

The Blazers used one of their two-way contract spots on Jaylen Hoard from Wake Forest. Hoard is also a very intriguing prospect in the mold of a big wing. He almost assuredly won’t see any NBA court time, and barring injuries, will spend all season in the G League.

PLAYERS IN: Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside, Pau Gasol, Anthony Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, Nassir Little, Jaylen Hoard (two-way contract).

PLAYERS OUT: Evan Turner, Mo Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, Enes Kanter, Jake Layman

What’s Next

As mentioned before, the West has no clear cut favorite to make it to the Finals the way the Warriors have been the last several seasons. The Blazers are among a few teams that could have a legitimate shot at having a big playoff run.

One of the things the Blazers appear to be depending on is development from their young wing players. With the departures of Harkless and Aminu, there are some holes in the Blazers; wing rotation. That’s where Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. come in.

Neither player saw any meaningful minutes last season as rookies, but they both had very strong showings in the Las Vegas Summer League. Simons can step in and be a scorer off the bench, while Trent is a great shooter.

Should both those players emerge as dependable rotation players, the Blazers could end up with a formidable team — a team capable of playing with anyone in the West.


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David Yapkowitz has been a staff writer for Basketball Insiders since 2017. Based in Los Angeles, he focuses on the Pacific Division as well as the NBA at large.

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