Now that we have all had time to stop and smell the roses in the Rose City this summer, Damian Lillard has had time to digest the Trail Blazers’ offseason moves.
For Portland, Rodney Hood returns, Al-Farouq Aminu is gone, and there’s a new forward headed to Rip City, Mario Hezonja. And, that all happened in the first day of NBA free agency 2019.
Yes, the Blazers had a lot of roster turnover. Along with the new additions of Hezonja, Kent Bazemore, and Hassan Whiteside, Portland will also be looking to their young guys to step up and make an impact this season.
Zach Collins and Anfernee Simons are two such guys that Lillard feels could help the team make a huge leap this upcoming season.
“I’m excited about Zach. Zach and Ant, I think these guys have a huge summer in front of them,” Lillard told the media at his annual kids basketball camp on Tuesday. “I think if they can have big summers and come back they can really have impact on our team. They can really be what can make us take that next step especially with what’ve added… I’m excited about it.”
Overall, the Trail Blazers All-Star point guard believes this offseason has been a success.
Lillard discussed how he feels “pretty good” about what went down in free agency, and that keeping the core of himself, CJ McCollum and eventually a healthy Jusuf Nurkic along with bringing back Hood are some key ingredients to the Blazers success this season.
After celebrating his 29th birthday this week, Lillard has his eyes on the prize.
“The ultimate goal is to win it all, to win a championship, as a team, as an individual you want to be MVP… I haven’t been either one of those, a champion or an MVP, so there’s a lot that I still got to play for, a lot that keeps me going,” Lillard said.
The ultimate goal is obviously no easy feat.
There have been several fans and national media members all across the NBA landscape saying that the West is now wide open with the Warriors going down with injuries.
But, Lillard has a different outlook on the future of the Western Conference. He made his point known about the West, saying, “everybody sees it as wide open, but it’s definitely not.”
“The West is still super competitive,” Lillard said. “Everybody has fire power. At first it was like, everybody was calling the Clippers a tough team and they play hard and now they got Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. And now, Anthony Davis plays for the Lakers and New Orleans has all this young talent that’s going to be able to compete. I don’t think people are giving them enough credit.”
“And then, Utah picked up all these guys, so it might look more balanced. But it probably got tougher to win in the West because every team is good now. Sacramento is a year older. Phoenix is a year older. All these teams, they coming.”
Lillard, McCollum, and the rest of the Trail Blazers are coming as well. With the Trail Blazers Vegas wins total set at 44.5, Portland will look to beat their wins total for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.