This article is part of our NBA Team Previews series.
2022-23 Portland Trail Blazers Team Preview
Portland had a relatively eventful offseason but didn’t lose too many meaningful players, which bodes well for this season. The Blazers re-signed Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic and Drew Eubanks. Notable additions include no. 7 pick Shaedon Sharpe, Jeremy Grant and Gary Payton.
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2021-22 Record: 27-55; 13th in the Western Conference
2022-23 NBA Win Total Odds: 39.5 wins (DraftKings)
2022-23 NBA Title Odds: +8000 (DraftKings)
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Portland Trail Blazers Fantasy Basketball Preview
Fantasy managers who drafted Lillard last year got burned. The All-Star point guard played in just 29 games in a lost year for the Trail Blazer, who was dealing with chronic abdominal pain that clearly affected him when he played. He shot just 40.2 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from three – both career lows. He underwent surgery in mid-January and never returned to the court. When it was clear Lillard wasn’t returning, Portland made some major roster changes to tank the remainder of the season. The biggest move was dealing Lillard’s longtime backcourt mate, CJ McCollum, to the Pelicans. Josh Hart represented the best returning player in the deal and Hart could start at small forward in 2022-23. Portland also dealt for Jerami Grant while re-signing both Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic. With McCollum out of the picture, optimistic fantasy managers could entertain the idea of Lillard walking into the highest usage rate of his career. His previous two years were excellent, averaging 29.4 points on 46/40/91 shooting, 7.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 36.6 minutes. That resulted in him ranking fifth in per-game fantasy production in 2019-20 and seventh in 2020-21. Given that the 32-year-old returned first-round value for four straight years before last, it’s reasonable to draft him in the late first round. Some managers may be scared off by his injury and age, but his floor is extremely high given his skill and role within the Blazers’ offense.
A combination of nagging injuries and Detroit’s rebuilding mission resulted in a shortened season for Grant. When active, he supplied 19.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 combined steals-plus-blocks across 47 contests. Jettisoned from Detroit to Portland in a pre-draft trade, Grant slots in as a pivotal starter at the power forward position and stands to make a huge two-way impact for the Trail Blazers. Grant has excelled when operating as a key contributor on playoff-caliber squads. Across 2018-19 with Oklahoma City and 2019-20 with Denver, Grant shot 48.9 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. His time in Detroit showcased his volume scoring abilities, and he’ll now join Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic in a talented starting lineup. The upcoming season could be Grant’s best – a culmination of bulk scoring and efficiency. His playing time should be healthy, and Grant can stuff the box score.
After the injury-riddled 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, Nurkic stayed relatively healthy last year, although he was shut down at the end of the year with the Trail Blazers tanking, so he appeared in just 56 games in the end. He had a solid bounceback season, ranking 73rd in per-game fantasy production. Nurkic’s first 32 games (October through December) were relatively modest, with the center averaging 13.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 25.6 minutes. However, with Damian Lillard shutting down due to an abdominal injury once the calendar flipped to 2022, Nurkic shouldered a larger role. In his final 24 appearances, Nurkic averaged 17.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.0 combined steals-plus-blocks in 31.7 minutes. Fantasy managers should be encouraged by his strong finish to the season, although that was largely due to his filling a usage gap left by Lillard. With the star point guard back in the fold, plus Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant around to take touches as well, Nurkic’s production could decline to closer to his production at the beginning of last season. He’s a quality option for fantasy managers looking to bolster the center position with a legitimate starter in the later rounds of drafts, but his ceiling is relatively low unless the Blazers’ key players are hit by more injuries.
After three years of toiling in a bench role for the Trail Blazers, Simons finally graduated to a starting job midway through 2021-22 and took advantage of the opportunity, averaging 23.4 points, 5.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds over 35.5 minutes per game in a 27 -game stretch before a knee injury prematurely ended his campaign. Simons’ efforts earned him a four-year, $100 million contract extension this offseason and positioned him for a consistently large role heading into 2022-23. Simons should pair with Damian Lillard to form the team’s primary backcourt, although 2022 NBA Draft seventh overall pick Shaedon Sharpe also joins the mix. Simons also blossomed from a fantasy perspective last season, shooting 44.3 percent from the field, 40.5 percent from deep and 88.8 percent from the charity stripe while knocking down 3.1 three-point shots per contest (4.4 in the final 27). While he may not match his output with Lillard back and set to start on the ball, Simons should still see plenty of usage with CJ McCollum out of the picture. His multi-category contributions should be enough to make him an intriguing option in many draft formats.
Hart stepped into the biggest role of his career last season, thanks, in part, to the Pelicans’ sign-and-trade of Lonzo Ball and the failure to secure great backcourt replacements. Zion Williamson’s full-season absence also opened up 30-plus minutes on the wing, and Brandon Ingram appeared in just 55 games. In Hart’s 41 appearances (40 starts) with New Orleans, he averaged 13.4 points on 51/32/75 shooting, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 33.5 minutes. Despite the 27-year-old’s impressive development, he was traded at the deadline to bring in CJ McCollum from Portland. The Trail Blazers were tanking, allowing Hart to see plenty of minutes and usage. Over his 13 appearances (all starts) with his new team, he averaged 19.9 points on 50/37/77 shooting, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.2 steals in 32.1 minutes – by far the biggest role of his career. The overall result of Hart’s production was him ranking 67th in per-game fantasy value – a huge leap from his previous high of rank 131. This year, he’ll have another chance to play a significant role for the Blazers, given his multi- position versatility and lack of roster depth. However, he won’t be posting numbers like he did at the end of last season. Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic will all sit above him on the offensive totem pole. There’s still a strong chance Hart sees 30-plus minutes and stuffs the stat sheet, but it will probably look more like his New Orleans production. Either way, fantasy managers should feel comfortable selecting Hart inside the top 100 given what he displayed in 2021-22.
Portland Trail Blazers Depth Chart for 2022-23
Click ahead for a detailed Portland Trail Blazers Depth Chart
CITY TEAM Predictions for 2022-23
Portland is a relatively thin team, but the starting five is great and has upside to be one of the better groups in the league. Teams run by a healthy Lillard are practically a guarantee for 40-plus wins, and this iteration has the potential for much more, as many teams above them in the expected win totals have question marks.
- 8th seed
- Loses in X round
Damian Lillard finishes Top 5 in MVP voting.
NBA Award Contenders