The Portland Trail Blazers’ four preseason games provided the first glimpse into the team’s future without Damian Lillard. On the surface, the results were underwhelming. The team went 1-3, only defeating the New Zealand Breakers in the preseason opener. Scoot Henderson showed flashes of promise, but his overall play signaled that fans will need to be patient with his development.
Despite the losses, the emergence of surprise role players – headlined by Toumani Camara – injected some excitement into the Blazers’ preseason play. Fans received a first look into new center Deandre Ayton’s fit with its core of young guards: Henderson, Anfernee Simons, and Shaedon Sharpe.
Developing chemistry will take time, but Ayton’s dunks and mid-range jumpers offered an illustration of the contrast between him and former Portland center Jusuf Nurkic.
Two preseason games against the Phoenix Suns served as reminders of the gap between the Trail Blazers’ level of play and the execution level of a contending team. Crisp screening, ball movement and spacing allowed the veteran-laden Suns to pick the Blazers’ defense apart.
Meanwhile, defensive miscommunications and shaky shooting limited Portland’s play.
The young Blazers will grow over the course of their 82 regular season games, but the preseason introduced a theme that should guide how fans follow the team this year: Development, not wins, will be the team’s priority.
Here are three takeaways from the Blazers’ preseason play.