7 Things Trail Blazers can take away from 2023 NBA Finals

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers and Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers and Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
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Kris Murray, Iowa Hawkeyes
Kris Murray, Iowa Hawkeyes, Syndication: USA TODAY /

Blazers takeaway No. 5: Finding complementary pieces to fit stars’ weaknesses

The Nuggets superstars, Jokic and Murray, are offensive-minded. Their primary strengths are shooting and playmaking (Jokic rebounding as well).

The Nuggets made transactions to complement their superstars’ weaknesses. In 2021, they traded Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and a 2025 first-round pick for Aaron Gordon. They signed free agents this past offseason who are two-way players in Brown and Caldwell-Pope.

These players were underrated signings that complemented the Nuggets superstars exceptionally well. They can guard out on the perimeter and stretch the floor for Jokic’s playmaking, making it hard to double-team the two-time MVP. Gordon, a 6-foot-8 forward with explosive athleticism and agility, is the perfect wing to shut down the opposing team’s best wings.

Meanwhile, the Heat took a contrasting approach based on their superstars’ skill sets. Both Butler and Adebayo are excellent two-way players. As a result, the Heat surrounded its superstars with players with complementary skill sets who were more offensive-minded shooters, like Tyler Herro, Vincent, Strus, Robinson, and Martin.

Because the Blazers’ primary superstar is currently Lillard, their offseason approach better resembles the Nuggets’ strategy. The Nuggets have more offensive-minded players at the point guard and center positions, much like the Blazers in Lillard and Nurkic. Because of this, Portland could benefit from prioritizing two-way wings this off-season.

Thybulle is one, but there are players who fit that mold in the draft, such as Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Iowa’s Kris Murray.

Another possibility to solidify the two-way wing need is if the Charlotte Hornets select Scoot Henderson at pick No. 2, leaving the Blazers with Brandon Miller from Alabama at pick No. 3.

The alternative routes include free agency and trade. While their potential trades could go in different directions, Portland could pursue Kelly Oubre Jr., Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, or Torrey Craig, all of whom are unrestricted free agents.