The Trail Blazers had a great season last year, making the second round of the playoffs after surprising everyone with a 4-2 series win over the Clippers. Point guard Damian Lillard has established himself among the NBA’s elite but will need to play his best if he hopes to reach the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
The Blazers are barely holding on to the final playoff spot and sit at 8th place in the conference. But they’re a whole six games behind seventh place, with only one game separating them from falling out of contention. Before the season began, Portland was named one of the best teams in the Northwest Division by keeping an eye on the trends, but things aren’t looking so certain now. If Rip City hopes to reach the postseason again, they’ll need all the help they can get—and it starts with Damian Lillard.
But Lillard has done more than just prove that he’s one of the best point guards in the league. He’s also one of the NBA’s best rappers. Lillard, sometimes known as Dame D.O.L.L.A., dropped his debut album, The Letter O, in the fall of 2016 and it was actually pretty solid. It boasts features from rap legends Lil Wayne and Juvenile, and has earned the support of the rap and basketball communities. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have also praised Lillard’s abilities on and off the court.
But even with the incredible talents of Lillard on display every night, the Blazers need more if they hope to compete with the rest of the West. The Philadelphia 76ers have no shortage of big men but could use another talented guard, so there’s talk of trading Nerlens Noel and a few picks for shooting guard CJ McCollum. Noel could add some much needed defense, and several first round picks could help to balance this into championship contenders.
Of course, even with added players, winning in the Western Conference is easier said than done. James Harden is having one of his best seasons ever with the Houston Rockets and is making a strong case as an MVP candidate. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook is making his own argument for MVP as he puts OKC on his back in the hopes of returning to the playoffs. Add in incredibly strong squads in for the L.A. Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs, and making the playoffs is much easier said than done. That’s not even mentioning the unstoppable juggernaut that is the new and improved Golden State Warriors.
Portland have a strong shot to make the playoffs, but they’ll need everyone to be on their game if they hope to finish the season strong. Lillard remains an exciting talent, but his biggest test is yet to come. He’ll have to come correct in the second half of the season if he hopes to take Portland to the championship, and at his best he just might do it.