There are not many people who thought that the Trail Blazers will start up the season so strong, being at the top after 15 matches in, after beating strong teams like the Suns (already 2 times out of 3), the Grizzlies, Nuggets, Heat, Pelicans, all that while their main go-to guy was out for two weeks, because of Damian Lillard’s right calf injury. So, taking that in consideration, there are many things for which the Trail Blazers organization can be satisfied, as their young guys seem to have lots of potential in them.
Anfernee Simons is continuing what has begun last season, averaging 22.3 points and 4 assists per-game, also showing that he can be the leader of the team whenever Damian Lillard is out, and this is huge for them. Jerami Grant also has a stellar start, already hitting 2 game-winners, vs. the Lakers and the Suns, games in which he scored 16 points and 30 points (in the 2nd game, Lillard was out). This season, he averages 21.3 points and 5 rebounds per-game. Looking at both Simons and Grant’s stat lines, even if it’s early into the season, we see that, after a pretty long time, Lillard have some kind of a supporting cast which can take the load out of his shoulders at times. Gary Payton II, who showed us last season with the Warriors that he can be a huge defensive reliability, didn’t even checked in yet due to core muscle surgery he underwent in the offseason. Payton’s next opportunity to return will be Saturday’s game against the Jazz.
Oh, and we didn’t even mentioned Jusuf Nurkic yet, who also bounced back nicely from his gruesome injury. Now he is a dominant presence under the rim, night in, night out, crushing the boards and helping his team both offensively and defensively. Currently he averages a double-double, with 12.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per-game.
Damian Lillard is who he is, we don’t think that he needs to be introduced anymore. With averages of 28 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per-game, he remains the true leader of the Portland Trail Blazers organization. It won’t be easy to sustain this pace in the heavy contested West, that’s for sure, but until now, they showed us that they are better than we initially thought. If they can keep this rhythm until the All-Star break, that will mean serious business for Lillard and his guys.
Tonight they clash with a Kyrie-less Brooklyn Nets, who are suffering to get to the winning path for the moment, and Portland have a huge opportunity to beat them at home and advance to 11 wins. Jusuf Nurkic and Justise Winslow are listed as questionable for tonight’s game, so we’ll see if they will get to play. Even without them, the Trail Blazers are going into it as the favorites.