Written by Taylor Odenat
The Portland Trail Blazers, led by possible MVP candidate Damian Lillard and Most Improved Player candidate C.J. McCollum, are becoming a force to be reckoned with. What seemed improbable at the beginning of the season is now inevitable, as the Blazers are surprisingly in the playoff picture out West. Under performing teams, such as the Rockets and Mavericks, have allowed the Blazers to barrel their way into the seventh seed in their conference. They have lost two games in the month of February, finishing with a record of 9-2; astounding NBA fans everywhere. If they continue their success, they’ll be able to push their way past the Mavericks and the Grizzlies; taking over the 6th seed. Rip City has become this season’s most remarkable and surprising team, after losing practically their whole starting lineup to free agency.
Damian Lillard has been on an absolute tear in February, scoring 30 or more points seven times, and dropping a career-high 51 points against the top seeded Golden State Warriors. Additionally, he tallied up his 6th 4-point play of the season; which leads the league. The Blazers don’t have a roster that screams playoff bound, but with McCollum and Lillard their potential is sky high. They may fall victim to a first round exit, but the Blazers will certainly put up a fight against whoever they're facing. Lillard may even have the ability to compete in a seven-game series against his old running mate, LaMarcus Aldridge, if Portland remains in the seventh seed come postseason time.
The Blazers are one great draft pick or one big free agent away from being a legitimate contender. While teams should consider them an issue, they aren’t an actual threat to reach the NBA Finals. Al-Farouq Aminu is playing exceedingly better than advertised, but the Blazers need more than 10 points per game from their starting small forward. They need to improve on their wing scoring, their bench depth, and frontcourt assistance. Meyers Leonard and Mason Plumlee have been producing nightly, but if the Blazers have the chance to acquire a big man then that should be one of their main priorities. Before their explosion, the Blazers seemed to be in a prime position to draft Utah Utes’ Jakob Poeltl; however, that may not be as attainable any longer. Regardless of who they draft or acquire in the off-season, the Portland Trail Blazers have an outstanding backcourt that they can build around for the future of their franchise.