The Portland Trail Blazers began their preseason with three games in five days. During that time, a multitude of players were unable to suit up due to injury. The Blazers have limped by thus far with a 1-2 record, but are now afforded a second chance to prove themselves. Their current five day gap between games will allow those that are still injured to return for what I will deem “preseason B.”
Preseason A saw absences from LaMarcus Aldridge (quad strain), Nicolas Batum (concussion), CJ McCollum (broken foot), Dorell Wright (dislocated finger), Mo Williams (sprained ankle), and Earl Watson (calf contusion). Of these players, CJ McCollum is the only one unlikely to make an appearance in preseason B. This means that Portland can finally hope to settle their rotation issues.
In essence, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland will disappear. Not entirely, but we won’t see either of them for more than 15 minutes a game. With Aldridge once again capable of cresting 20 minutes, and the return of Batum and Wright, the forward slots will be filled. The split will be further exacerbated when the regular season begins, assuming no serious injuries occur.
But let’s focus on the next few weeks. The Blazers play the Jazz again on October 16th, the Clippers again on October 18th, the Kings on October 20th, and the Warriors on October 24th. I expect to see Portland function at full force and come out on top in preseason B. When healthy, they can take the Jazz and the Kings with their eyes closed. If the Blazers can steal one from the Clippers or Warriors, I will consider their winning record an overall salvage.
Mostly, I just want to see a preview of the Blazers team Neil Olshey built, playing in Terry Stotts’ design. I see great offensive strides on paper, but actual chemistry goes beyond X’s and O’s. I am also unconvinced that the addition of Robin Lopez is enough to solve Portland’s defensive problems, so I will reserve judgment until the healthy roster functions as intended. Starting Wednesday, we’ll have a more complete picture of what the Blazers really are this year.