2021 NBA Playoff X-Factors – West


Portland Trailblazers

42-30, 6th in West

Playoff Matchup: (3) Denver Nuggets

Sean: Jusuf Nurkić

Nurkić has been injury prone the last two seasons and it’s really hurt the Blazers chances at competing at a high level.  When Nurk is healthy and doing his thing, the Blazers are a hard team to stop. He also gives them another dimension on defense that no one else on the roster can replicate.

If Nurk can manage to stay healthy for a full round, the Blazers have a good chance to sneak by the Nuggets.  Nurk’s size and strength can disrupt Jokic and his offensive ability will make the (likely) league MVP work for his points. Availability is the best ability though and that will define Nurkić’s impact.  Otherwise, Enes Kanter will be getting a ton of minutes against the best big man in the league. 

James: Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony is a dead key force in the playoffs and I can’t help but give him credit as this year has been the most impressive since he got to Portland. More importantly they are giving Melo room to operate as we are seeing glimpses of the Melo we are used to seeing. He can break down a defense and make everyone on the floor play at his pace. He excels in his size-up combos, and Iso play in which its spoke volumes down the stretch giving Portland the edge.

At 36, Melo is a great third option for this team and can easily go for an easy 25 at any given moment. The numbers aren’t great, but we all know that doesn’t matter when we talk about a guy like Melo at this stage in his career. If he gets into a groove Portland can make a deep run. Lastly, if he can control the glass and push that average to at least 6 boards a game then that alone will give Portland extra possessions down the stretch. 



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