The Portland Trail Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic, and Zach Collins are heading to Orlando as the ninth-place team in the Western Conference, and they have a chance to squeeze their way into the playoff picture.

This season has been a strange odyssey for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard proved he is still one of the best guards in the NBA, and C.J. McCollum recovered from a sluggish start to reassert himself as a steady second scoring option.

But the Trail Blazers struggled without Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins in the lineup.

Both Nurkic and Collins had been nursing injuries all season, and Collins’ injury in particular was the main factor leading to the decision to sign Carmelo Anthony.

Though Anthony has been a decent third option, the absence of Nurkic and Collins decimated the defensive frontcourt and exposed the Blazers’ lack of quality depth.

However, Nurkic was already preparing for a return to the floor for the Blazers prior to the suspension of play. Moreover, Joe Freeman of the Oregonian reported Collins’ shoulder rehab is all but complete, and he is planning to play in the restart.

It goes without saying the Trail Blazers are better off with Nurkic and Collins in the rotation. But how will they manage the return of their two frontcourt anchors?

Lineup versatility

Getting Nurkic back is particularly interesting for the Blazers, mostly because he is another paint-bound center like Hassan Whiteside.

Portland head coach Terry Stotts might very well choose to play Nurkic off the bench in order to ease him back into action. But he could also play a massive lineup with both Whiteside and Nurkic on the floor. Doing so would obviously sacrifice some floor-spacing and shooting, but it could also cause matchup nightmares, especially given Nurkic’s proficiency in the pick-and-roll.

Meanwhile, Collins should almost immediately become the team’s starter at the four-man. The 22-year-old can step out and shoot the three from time to time, and he is a much more valuable defender than Anthony, particularly in his ability to rotate and help from the weak side.

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This would allow Trevor Ariza to remain at the small forward spot, while also giving the Trail Blazer much-needed scoring with Anthony coming off the bench. Carmelo has had his gripes with being a bench player in the past, but he might be more amenable to such a change in the latter stage of his career.

Even if both Nurkic and Collins come off the bench, it means Stotts can mix and match personnel while keeping guys fresh. He can also play guys at their true positions.

Lillard and McCollum had been averaging 36 minutes per game. Is it possible Stotts can spare them a few minutes and allow guys like Gary Trent and Kent Bazemore–who were previously used as undersized forwards–to get more action at the guard spots?

Needless to say, Stotts and the Trail Blazers have options. They can look to exploit matchups or solidify the defensive frontcourt, rather than constantly having to play small.