The Portland Trailblazers have consistently been a top four NBA team the past few seasons. This year, they’ve shown that they have what it takes to not only win a series but to continue their success all the way to final.
Here’s what’s changed for Portland that has made them championship contenders.
Lillard and McCollum Are Playing the best Basketball of Their Lives
If anybody ever doubted Damian Lillard, they need to seriously take back their words. Lillard has clearly shown during the Thunder series that this is not the same Trailblazers team of year’s past. McCollum has been equally just as great.
Additionally, the way these two guys are able to play together in the frontcourt is downright scary and a legit threat the other remaining Western Conference teams.
Aminu and Harkless Are Stepping Up
Aminu has been averaging 10 points this season, and Harkless has been shooting 49% from the field. They’ve been good additions to Portland all season, and they’ve been even better this off-season.
This post-season, both of these players have increased their points per game, and have shown they’re great compliments to Lillard Dame and CJ. When big shots are needed, they’re capable of coming in the clutch.
The Denver Nuggets are Vulnerable
The Nuggets are the most likely opponents for the Trailblazers. And if their series with the Spurs told us anything, it’s that they’re an extremely vulnerable squad.
Jokic, Milsap, and Murray are an extremely talented group of players who will make the series competitive. However, besides Milsap, Murray and Jokic don’t have the playoff experience to be able to handle the pressure of the second round. Although the Trailblazers haven’t had much success in the post-season, their presence year after year has been enough to show them what it takes to win. The Nuggets are bound to struggle without this experience.
Enes Kanter (as long as his shoulder is okay) is the X factor the Trail Blazers needed.
Losing Nurkic was tough – but Portland was already a top three Western conference team before they acquired him. Not only that, Enes Kanter has emerged as a suitable big man that is capable of playing a big role for this team. If his shoulder from game 5 doesn’t become a bigger issue, look for Kanter to continue to make a mark.
Losing Boogie Makes The Warriors More Than Beatable
The Warriors with Demarcus Cousins were an almost unbeatable playoff squad. Without him, they’re still going to be a tumultuous opponent, but now there’s more of a reason to believe other teams can exploit their weakness.
Andrew Bogut is not going to make up for Cousins, and he isn’t even close to the player he once. If Kanter’s shoulder isn’t an issue (and it sure didn’t look that way towards the end of game 5), they’ll have a big man capable of defending Bogut.
Not only that, even with Boogie, the Warriors showed time in and time out how vulnerable they were as a squad during the regular season.