Potential outcomes for Portland Trail Blazers: Sink
Injuries can easily derail a season; ask the 2019-20 Warriors. The temptation to wallow in self-pity is enticing, but it’s something the Blazers must fight off. Regardless of whether or not they fight those urges off, they might sink all the way out of the playoffs.
It’s tough to see Damian Lillard allowing that, but the Blazers finished 8th last season with a negative record. That also happened with Both Lillard and McCollum playing over 65 games in a 74 game season.
The point being that while Lillard is one of the toughest competitors in the game, it’s a team sport, and it is not entirely up to him.
The stock of the Nuggets, Mavericks, and Warriors is only going up. If the Blazers cannot overcome their current situation, they will fall further and further down the standings.
With the season being so young, the fifth-place Blazers are only three and a half games about Rockets’ 14th place.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ position is precarious at the moment. It’s not a far leap that the team could fall out of the top eight before McCollum and Nurkić return. If this is the case, expect Portland to take it slowly, bringing the two back from injury.
The team may hit a certain point (likely not until March) to value giving the younger players minutes overplaying Lillard 35+ minutes a night.
Other than the young players receiving time, the only other benefit would be that the Blazers keep their 2021 first-round pick (lottery protected to Houston). If you asked Damian Lillard, though, I’m sure he’d much rather be in the playoffs.
It’s far from an ideal scenario, but at this moment, it’s a frightening possibility.