After finishing 13th in the Western Conference last year, the Portland Trail Blazers are off to a 3-0 start, and Damian Lillard is back to “Dame Time” status. Here’s an overview of the Trail Blazers and a preview of the team’s season.
“Dame Time” had one of the worst seasons of his career last year, averaging 24 points per game, 7.3 assists per game, and 4.1 rebounds per game. This is the lowest points per game he’s averaged since 2015. Lillard only appeared in 29 games last year due to an abdominal surgery.
Lillard’s contract keeps him in Portland until the 2027 season if he chooses to opt into a $63.2 million option that year. Last season, the Trail Blazers also had their worst placement since 2005, ranking 13th in the Western Conference and 4th in the Northwest Division.
This season, though, the Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard have turned things around. With a 3-0 start after beating the Los Angeles Lakers, the Trail Blazers have put the league on notice. Throughout the three-game span, Lillard has scored 102 points.
In the Trail Blazer’s first three games, a few new players as well as familiar faces shined. In their October 19 115-108 victory over the Sacramento Kings, Josh Hart put up 19 points 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, shooting 73% from the field. That same night, Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons put up 23 and 22 points respectively.
In the team’s October 21 victory over the Phoenix Suns, Jusuf Nurkic dominated in the paint. With 20 points and 17 rebounds in the 113-111 Portland win, it looks like the Bosnian center will continue to be an integral piece of the Blazers squad.
This offseason, the Trail Blazers added forward Jerami Grant. Grant averaged 19.2 points per game, 2.4 assists per game, and 4.1 rebounds per game with the Detroit Pistons last year. After his 23 point performance against the Kings this year, it looks like Grant will be a significant scorer for Portland.
The team also signed Gary Payton II from the Golden State Warriors. The 2022 NBA champ guarded big names in playoffs last year like Ja Morant. Payton II averaged 7.1 points per game and 1.4 steals per game last year with the Warriors. In Portland, he’ll add depth and a reliable on-ball defender.
Other Trail Blazer offseason moves include drafting Shaedon Sharpe and Jabari Walker with the 7th and 57th picks respectively. Portland also re-signed Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, and Drew Eubanks.
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Featured image courtesy of Abbie Parr/Getty Images
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