The Portland Trail Blazers are going to try to follow their usual formula this season. Despite suffering a few personnel losses over the summer — like losing Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Enes Kanter, and Evan Turner via trades or free agency — Portland will hope its depth and two stars in the backcourt lead to a postseason berth.
Those two stars, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, are revered for leaving it all on the floor whenever they play. Seeing as how it’s rare that either guy ever misses more than a handful of games in a year, this makes Portland a tough team to beat on a nightly basis, which has become something of their calling card — Portland plays really hard, and in turn, they outperform preseason expectations and make the playoffs.
As for the 2019-20 year, the Blazers once again have postseason aspirations, but it’ll be awfully difficult with the talent the Western Conference possesses. In fact, while other teams might employ a load management strategy to keep their stars fresh, neither Lillard nor McCollum believe Portland has that luxury.
“We’re not some big superteam,” Lillard said, per ESPN. “So I don’t think we have the luxury to sit out, especially with how competitive the West is going to be.”
McCollum echoed this sentiment, saying “The race in the Western Conference is extremely tight. I don’t know if we can afford to ‘Kawhi it,’ so to speak. You’ll Kawhi your way out of the playoffs.”
“Kawhi it,” of course, references Kawhi Leonard, who played in 60 games for the Toronto Raptors last regular season. Leonard was coming off of a quad injury that limited him to nine games the season prior, and the Raptors decided it was best to restrict his usage prior to the playoffs, a gambit that paid off in the form of a championship. Perhaps Portland could adopt a similar strategy and make sure one of Lillard or McCollum play in every game, but instead, the Blazers appear set to let the pair play in all 82 games if they remain healthy.