The Trail Blazers were swept by the Warriors in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but the team has a lot of promise for the future.
There aren't many teams that can match Golden State's roster, but Portland could be with the addition of a few key players. The Blazers' backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is one of the best in the league and Jusuf Nurkic was a huge addition at the trade deadline, averaging a double-double during his time in Portland.
Nurkic was injured in this series and only played sparingly in Game 3, but if gets healthy and Portland adds another key player, they could be a threat to the Warriors in future years.
"They're right there, man. They're a good team," Kevin Durant told ESPN after Monday's Game 4. "They started off slow. I think they should have been a higher seed, but they fought their way to get in the playoffs. They have a future center in Nurkic who took them over the top, but I think they need another ball-handler on the wing to get them going. It's going to be fun playing against these guys in the next few years."
Lillard knows that if his Trail Blazers are to compete for the Finals, they're going to have to take down the Warriors. Obviously the Spurs and Rockets have strong teams as well, but at the end of the day, the Warriors' talent is above everyone else.
"You also have to understand that if you ever want to get out of the West, you’re going to have to go through them. I understand that’s what it is," Lillard said Monday night. "It’s always been that way in the NBA. I think about when the Pistons were just beating up on (Michael) Jordan and kicking his butt every year and he had to get through them if he wanted to get to where he wanted to go. That’s just what it is because they’re going to be there, they’re going to be there every year and we have to look at that and understand that we have to be better. We have to go get better and come back better as a group if we want to move past them."
With the trio of Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic, the Trail Blazers have a blueprint for the future. If they can get off to a stronger start than they did this year, and keep that momentum going, they will be real contenders in the Western Conference.