As a basketball fan, watching the NBA Finals is always exciting, and this year’s matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat was no exception. However, as a Blazers fan, I can’t help but think about what could have been if Portland was in the mix.
The Blazers have had three finals appearances, with one championship in 1977. While they have yet to make the finals in the Damian Lillard era, their Western Conference Finals run in 2019 was a reminder of the team’s potential.
With the NBA world still reeling from the Nuggets’ first franchise title, it’s an excellent opportunity for the Blazers to evaluate both Denver and Miami. Whether it’s playing style or roster construction, there are likely similarities the Blazers can incorporate into their own approach.
By analyzing what makes these teams successful, the Blazers can make informed decisions about their future, including critical offseason choices surrounding Lillard and the upcoming draft.
Here are seven key takeaways for the Trail Blazers from this year’s NBA Finals, including insights into playing style, roster construction, and future decisions.
Blazers takeaway No. 1: The value of versatile playmaking centers
Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Miami’s Bam Adebayo are both excellent playmakers at the center position. Jokic is in a league of his own, averaging 9.8 assists per game, the third most in the NBA, regardless of position. Because of Jokic’s unique talent and skill set, he will be challenging to emulate.
A more realistic option is Adebayo, who averaged 3.2 assists per game, good for sixth in the NBA among centers.
However, it’s worth noting that Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic is also an excellent passer for a center, averaging 2.9 assists per game this season. It could be a reason for the Blazers to keep Nurkic this offseason rather than involve him in any trades. Especially given his perceived trade value, it could make sense for the Blazers to keep him since they likely won’t get a return worth what he brings to the table.
The trend of playmaking centers has been successful in the league, as seen with the Golden State Warriors’ utilization of Draymond Green in last year’s finals.
One area where Nurkic lacks is ball-handling and the ability to bring the ball up the court himself. Bringing in a center who can initiate the offense would benefit the Blazers and allow them to get into their sets quicker.
Ultimately, if a more versatile center is available, the Blazers should consider it. However, Nurkic’s playmaking skills in the half-court offense make him a valuable asset to the team.