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PORTLAND, OREGON - OCTOBER 08: Anthony Tolliver #43 of the Portland Trail Blazers reacts against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter during a preseason game at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 08, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Here’s what we learned from the Portland Trail Blazers close loss to their division rival Denver Nuggets in their preseason opener.

The Portland Trail Blazers made their preseason debut against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, October 8. Portland lost 94 – 105. Even though Portland lost, the Trail Blazers showed us some promise for this season and in the future.

The Blazers started Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, Zach Collins, and Hassan Whiteside. This starting unit looked great on offense to start the game, but there were some weaknesses exposed on defense early in the game. Having Collins and Whiteside both starting makes it difficult to guard stretch bigs at the 3-point line. Paul Millsap had a handful of wide-open looks from deep in the first quarter. Luckily, Millsap only took a few of those shots.

Early in the game, Zach Collins took a few jump shots and made two of them. His jump shot looks a little different this year, but better. Hopefully, this means he will be a consistent outside threat this season. Collins and Whiteside more active in the offensive scheme than I anticipated and I really enjoyed watching it. This should help Dame and CJ tremendously. Whiteside looked great scoring in the paint and even showed off some great passes.

Something I was impressed within this game, was the energy off the bench. The first subs were Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, Skal Labissiere, Anfernee Simons, and Mario Hezonja. It took this lineup about 3 minutes of game time to make a shot, but the shot that was made was a big dunk by Mario. This dunk gave the Blazers a ton of momentum and they carried through with until the starters came back in.

Hezonja and Bazemore were the two most impressive players in the first half. Mario showed off great athleticism and passing. Hezonja was playing a style of basketball similar to LeBron James. Mario would beat the first defender and explode to rim and either finish or pass out to the wing. Hezonja was constantly forcing fastbreaks and passing the ball at a high velocity. Moving forward, he should probably be the primary ball handler off the bench. Bazemore looked great as well. His jump shot and perimeter defense were great in this game.

In the second half, it was pretty much the same as the first half, but we got see Nassir Little. Little was electric in his small sample size. Nassir drew a lot of fouls and nobody on the Denver Nuggets could keep Little in front of him. Little had an amazing play in the fourth quarter, he blew right by Micheal Porter Jr. with a behind the back dribble move and then finished at the rim in between two defenders with a fancy layup. Nassir Little showed us that he has the potential to be one of the league’s best scorers one day.

I do have some questions for the upcoming season after watching this game. I think I would rather have Bazemore start over Collins. Whiteside and Collins played great together, but they gave up too many threes to Paul Millsap, (even though he didn’t take all the opportunities he was given.) I think if Bazemore was in, Hood or Bazemore wouldn’t have let that happen.

I think we are just too slow with Collins and Whiteside. The bench looked good, but nobody can really take the role of being a primary ball handler besides Mario Hezonja. Portland would be better off signing another good ball handler, such as Jamal Crawford, to help out Mario on the bench.

All together, Portland looked great and I’m excited for this season.