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Warriors vs. Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard & the Portland rebuild

After the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge and three other starters from last year, the Portland Trailblazers overhauled their entire roster, building around their young star Damian Lillard. They take on our world champions tonight.

Damian Lillard and the Trailblazers take on the Warriors
Damian Lillard and the Trailblazers take on the Warriors
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors
0-0 (0-0 HOME)
Portland Trail Blazers
0-0 (0-0 ROAD)
October 8, 2015
Moda Center, Portland, OR
7:00 pm PST
Blog Buddy: Blazer's Edge
Projected Starters
Stephen Curry G Damian Lillard
Klay Thompson G C.J. McCollum
Harrison Barnes F Allen Crabbe
Draymond Green F Mason Plumlee
Andrew Bogut C Meyers Leonard
Key Injuries
Kevon Looney - Out

Gerald Henderson - OUT


The Portland Trail Blazers have had quite a rough offseason.  Although they finished with a 51-31 record in the 2014-2015 season and won the Northwest Division, they stumbled into the playoffs after a season-ending injury to starter Wes Matthews stretched their talent too thin. They subsequently lost to the Houston Rockets in the first round, winning only one game in the series.  During the offseason, All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge as well as fellow starters Matthews and Robin Lopez left Portland in free agency. The Blazers traded another starter, Nicholas Batum, for less proven pieces.  All in all, they return only 1/3 of their overall minutes from last year.

So don't expect the Blazers to be good this year — their current roster is constructed out of spare parts are talented, but simply unproven at the NBA level. In one of Grantland's always-intriguing podcasts, Blazers GM Neil Olshey explains to Zach Lowe that his plan to retool the team revolves around finding players that match the career arc of their one star, Bay Area native Damian Lillard.  A former Rookie of the Year, Lillard signed a 5-year, $120 million contract extension this summer. He's an electrifying scorer with great shooting range, almost like a young Stephen Curry, and he's only 25.

It seems like our partner Blazer's Edge is high on the potential of their young, versatile frontcourt. Although they're almost assuredly a lottery team, the Blazer's Edge community largely thinks that they have enough pieces already to expedite the rebuilding process, and hopefully return to the playoffs within just a few years.

Through the Batum trade, the Blazers acquired starting shooting guard Gerald Henderson (who's currently out injured) and a high draft choice from the 2013 draft, Noah Vonleh.  They signed defensive stalwart Al-Farouq Aminu and post muscle in Ed Davis in free agency, traded their draft pick for Mason Plumlee, and snagged Maurice Harkless for a second round draft pick.  Combined with their own improving prospects, which include C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe, and Meyers Leonard, the Blazers could have talent sprout from multiple sources on the roster.  Given a few years and a few high draft choices, the Blazers might be good enough to contend in the Western conference.  We're also eagerly awaiting a Chris Kaman renaissance.

The Golden State Warriors travel to Portland to face this young team on Thursday at 7:00 PST.  First, we hope to avoid injuries.  Second, it would be nice to see (or imagine, as there's no TV for this game) how the bench rotation battles are evolving: What combination of Festus Ezeli, Jason Thompson, Marreese Speights, and James Michael McAdoo will play consistent minutes off the bench? Which of the wing shooters will steal the team's final spot? It is also worth keeping an eye on whether the older members of the team, namely Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala, are as healthy and springy as they've claimed, and whether Steph Curry can make threes in-game with his eyes closed.

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