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Scouting the Enemy: Portland Trail Blazers

Can the Blazers finally get over the hump in the Western Conference?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers

Former Grizzlies: Hassan Whiteside (if training camp contracts count?), Pau Gasol

Offseason in Review:

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

As has been the case since the summer of 2016, the Blazers haven’t had the cap space to make any real splashy moves. However, they were able to add some solid tertiary pieces this offseason.

They acquired Hassan Whiteside from the Miami Heat to fill in for the injured Jusuf Nurkic in the four-team trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Miami. They also signed Pau Gasol to a one-year, $2.6 million deal that will likely finish off his career. In an NBA Draft that was not considered to be particularly deep, they also managed to get a steal in drafting forward Nassir Little from North Carolina with the 25th pick.

To become true title contenders, playoff teams have to make smart decisions in filling in some of the more tertiary holes on the roster. And it appears that the Blazers did a solid job in doing so.

Team Outlook

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

For a team that has been basically capped out since the irresponsible spending that occurred in the summer of 2016, the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled to add the right pieces around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to become meaningful title contenders. However, you could definitely make the argument that fact is mainly the case because the top of the West (i.e. Golden State) has been too good rather than Portland hasn’t been good enough.

Portland will be betting that is the case next year in a Western Conference that now has more parity than it has since 2015. The Blazers bring back nearly their entire team from last year in which they went 53-29 and made the Western Conference Finals. They can count on some level of internal improvement from prospects like Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.

However, their eventual fate will likely be the same as it is been the last few years. Unless injuries derail the Lakers and Clippers, it’s hard to imagine the Blazers getting past either. As good and talented as they are, the destiny of the Blazers appears to be one that fans of the Memphis Grizzlies readily understand—a tough out.

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