Portland’s big three of Damian Lillard, C.J McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic dominate
Let’s take a look at the Western Conference Standings for a moment. Houston, Golden State and San Antonio lead while Dallas, Sacramento and Phoenix wallow at the bottom.
Everything has gone about as you would expect, but if you direct your attention to fourth place, you’ll find the Portland Trailblazers sitting pretty above franchises like Oklahoma City, Denver and New Orleans, all of whom revamped their rosters this offseason.
If anyone told you they expected this sort of improvement from last year, they were lying. The Blazers. I mean, how could you possibly predict an eighth seed that traded away its most versatile big and most valuable bench player for late picks and some change would get better?
Without a time machine, the answer is you couldn’t. However, that’s exactly what Portland has done.
Despite running an outdated offense revolved around two ball dominant guards who’re allergic to defense and a score-first center who demands touches, they’ve deployed a surprisingly efficient team defense that makes up for their bottom 10 scoring offense.
Most of Portland’s roster is very one track minded, either failing create their own shot or failing to show interest on the other side of the ball whatsoever. What’s interesting is that when sent out in the right combination, their one-dimensional players make up for their teammates’ shortcomings in other areas.
Friday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets was a perfect showcase of exactly how the Blazers have managed to pull off this unsuspected feat.
Behind the daunting trio of Damian Lillard, C.J McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers were able to keep up with the insane pace that the Nets employ on a nightly basis. Although putting the ball through the basket isn’t exactly Portland’s calling card, it is the specialty of their aforementioned stars.
The Blazers three-headed-monster scores an eye-popping 62.1 combined points per game, a comparable combined scoring average to celebrated trios like Steph, Klay and KD and Melo, Russ and PG13. On Friday, Portland downed the Nets 127-125, and surprise surprise, Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic poured in 89 points.
It’s unreasonable for Portland to expect their triumvirate to score as much as they did on this night, and their odd tactics should catch up to them as the season goes alone. With that being said, Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic are bonafide stars you can build a franchise around.
Should the Trailblazers ever surround them with legitimate talent, they could make a real run for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Until then, they’ll have to settle with mediocrity and early playoff exits.
That may be fine with Portland, but it won’t fly with the hyper-competitive Damian Lillard. If he leaves somewhere down the road, don’t be surprised if his supporting cast follows suit.