<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Friday, September 29, 2023
Sept. 29, 2023

Linkedin Pinterest

Five questions for the rest of the Trail Blazers’ season

By , Columbian Trail Blazers Writer

A look a five storylines facing the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half of the season:


Will we see the real Nicolas Batum?

He is one of the best defenders on the team — but his field goal percentage, inside and outside of the 3-point arc, is at career-worst levels.

The acquisition of Arron Afflalo gives the Blazers more veteran know-how on the wing and a shot maker who can also make up for Batum’s lack of offensive production if needed.

Should Batum’s shot fail to improve, which is due mostly to an ailing right wrist, a first round exit is almost a guarantee.

Making it out of the first round will already be a tall task in a stacked conference, even if everyone is playing well.

The trade indicates that the Blazers are in “win now” mode — and if Batum does not pick up his play, they’ll be looking towards next year quicker than they wanted to.

Batum knows he needs to pick it up — but will his wrist allow him to?


With a healthy frontcourt, who will play?

Joel Freeland’s impending return may bring tough decisions for Head coach Terry Stotts, which Freeland says could be soon.

Chris Kaman was one of the few Blazers who looked good in Portland’s first game after the break, but his play has tailed off after a hot start. Meanwhile, Meyers Leonard has come on strong and has played in 20 straight games, showing an accurate 3-point shot.

Stotts has stuck to his message that Kaman is entrenched in the rotation. But will Freeland’s dirty work and rim protection skills and Leonard’s youth and shooting force his hand?


Will Damian Lillard’s 3-point shot bounce back?

Damian Lillard has greatly improved his finishing around the rim but he is struggling from the outside.

Lillard has shot 26.4 percent on 3-pointers since Jan. 1 and has struggled to get a consistent rhythm from beyond the arc.

January was the worst month of Lillard’s career in terms of 3-point shooting (28.1 percent), and February is on pace to be worse.


How will the new pieces fit?

New acquisition Arron Afflalo has said multiple times, both on social media and in a personal essay on “The Player’s Tribune,” that it is championship time for the Blazers.

Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations, is keenly aware of team chemistry and believes that Afflalo and swingman Alonzo Gee will fit in well with Portland’s locker room culture.

And chemistry is part of what makes the Blazers scary in the playoffs.

It will also be interesting to see how Portland’s offense will perform with the new additions.

Their defense has been stellar, but their offense has slipped from 2nd a year ago to 11th in offensive efficiency.

They have 28 games to build chemistry going into the playoffs.


Will the Blazers get home court in the playoffs?

In a Western Conference that is so tight that the Blazers can use every advantage they can get.

They are 23-5 at home so far this season, and there is little doubt they are a much better home team despite winning last year’s series against the Rockets by starting on the road.

They have a seven-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the division and the status of Kevin Durant’s foot is day-to-day.

But with several teams hanging around in the 4-5-6 zone, Portland could be in danger of starting on the road despite winning the division if teams like the Clippers or San Antonio have a better record than them at season’s end.

Of Portland’s remaining 28 games, 17 are against teams with above-.500 records.

So far this season, Portland is 15-14 in games against teams .500 or better.

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer