It’s still early in the season but the Portland Trail Blazers are struggling. Not the Philadelphia 76ers or Minnesota Timberwolves struggle but the kind that can make any team begin to question themselves. The Blazers were the darlings of the NBA last season as they pulled off the unthinkable and made a run without the services of LaMarcus Aldridge. But, Damian Lillard rose to the occasion and placed himself among the top PG’s in the NBA last season.
Fast forward to the offseason and the Blazers made the necessary moves to be more than a Cinderella team. The first order of business was to make sure they didn’t lose their core group of young reserves as they resigned Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Allen Crabbe. Then it was time to hit the free agent market for a big splash in terms of Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli.[embedit snippet=”2″]
But 2016 has not been as kind to the Blazers as the offseason was. They lost Al-Farouq Aminu to injury and their new additions have not lived up to the size of their bank accounts. Turner has been inconsistent and Ezeli has yet to take the floor. But, that’s no excuse as the Blazers are still pretty much the same team that made the playoffs, yet they find themselves looking up at the young Los Angeles Lakers in the standings.
What must they do?
To begin with, they need to learn to play defense. The Blazers have a top flight offense but rank last on the defensive end. What hurts them the more is the paint. There is no real threat of a rim protector as teams have had a green light to drive to the basket at ease. Mason Plumlee, Leonard, and Ed Davis has been invisible and if the Blazers do not improve they could sink further down the Western Conference standings. There is still hope but, it will cost them.
With rumors swirling around concerning the Sacramento Kings and their entire roster, there are two players that targeted throughout the league but only one is needed on the Blazers roster. DeMarcus Cousins will put the Blazers in the NBA Finals. That may seem like a stretch to some but what do you get with possibly the most dominant big man in the post and the second best backcourt in the NBA?
They will be unstoppable with Cousins at Center. But, his presence will not come cheap. The Blazer will have to get rid of some young talent like Harkless, Crabbe, and Plumlee but it will be worth it in the end. A lineup that features Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Aminu, Turner, and Cousins will rival that of any team currently above them in the standings.
Cousins is a top-notch offensive player but he’s an underrated defender as well. So far this season he is averaging 28 points, 10 rebounds, and one block in 34 minutes. He’s durable. The mental issues have more to do with losing and the Kings organization than anything but, if he were to be removed and placed with a contender like he was with Team USA, those issues will be non-existent.
It’s not time to panic in #RipCity just yet but it’s getting pretty damn close.