Portland’s Preseason Left a Lot to be Desired

Anfernee Simons and Damian Lillard at Sacramento.
José Luis Villegas (AP Photo)

Never overreact to preseason basketball. However, Portland’s five-game stint in the preseason is all deserving of some kind of reaction.

Portland’s preseason concluded following a 33-point loss to the Golden State Warriors, leaving them with 1-4 record in preseason. Portland’s one win came at the hands of Maccabi Ra’anana, an Israeli basketball club taking part in the NBA’s preseason.

With such a small sample size, it is hard to truly digest the team in a proper manner but there is no denying the red flags that were raised as Portland showed obvious signs of struggle. The Blazers as a whole simply looked to be stagnant at times, often not entirely on the same page. With the roster changes and foundation of the team changing over the summer, it is not expected for things to be perfect but there were moments where the game was just becoming more and more frustrating to see.

With a little under a week before the regular season is under way, the team has their work cut out for them to fix even minor issues when it comes to execution on the offensive end. And even then, the defense needs major work.

It is a yearly tradition to look at the Blazers defense and feel let down and this year’s start is looking no different. Through five games, Portland gave up 112 points per game which lands them in the bottom 10 of the NBA. As if they are sticking with the same blueprint that had failed them for the greater part of the decade, Portland sticking with a lineup consisting of two smaller statured guards could prove to be trouble in the long run. Noting that Anfernee Simons did show flashes of being able to hold his own, banking on that to continue to take place over 82 games seems extremely unlikely.

While the defensive side came with a plethora of lapses, Jerami Grant proved to be a major addition for the Blazers defensively but even at his very best, he cannot hold up the front court alone. Jusuf Nurkić foul trouble in the preseason was alarming to say the least. In two of the four games he had at least five fouls, one instance coming in just 17 minutes of action. Altogether, Nurk averaged 3.5 fouls in just 20.6 minutes per game and with the back-up big position lacking depth small stuff like this has to be ridded of.

With a week before the 76th NBA season starting, the unpredictability of the Blazers is a thing to be seen. A five-game stretch of “meaningless” basketball showed the gray areas that are desperately in need of work. Even with the lackluster play at times, it is hard to imagine the Blazers bottoming out once again as they seem to have a healthy roster.

With the return of Damian Lillard coming off an abdominal surgery, Portland could very well ride the coat tails once again of the ‘Letter O’ in hopes to have him take them to the postseason. Even then, the re-vamping of this roster was done in hopes to abandon that style of play.

No matter what the X’s and O’s say, the biggest problem Portland has to tackle is finding cohesiveness before it is much too late to save their season. The smallest mishaps could stem from the fact that this group has little to no experience playing with one another. With new faces in new places and a second-year head coach whose first year was injury ridden, this is a tall task at hand. In six days, the biggest questions fans may have about this team will slowly but surely begin to have answers, but whether they are answers that will satisfy a question within itself.