The Portland Trail Blazers weren’t supposed to be a thing during the 2015-2016 NBA season. Terry Stotts’ team entered the season with one of the lowest over/under projections in the entire league and it was a stunning revelation when Portland raced to 44 wins. However, someone forgot to tell the Blazers that they likely overachieved a season ago.
Following that encouraging campaign, the Blazers tossed money around in a way that only the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers can match. Portland owns the second-highest payroll in the NBA at north of $120 million, and the roster doesn’t exactly resemble what you would think when seeing that number. Yes, the Blazers have some tremendous assets, headlined by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. With that said, Portland violently overpaid the likes of Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard while matching what is probably an aggressive contract for Allen Crabbe in restricted free agency.
The result of that spending? Well, the Blazers are struggling in a mighty way. On Nov. 13, the team was 7-4 and looked to be heading toward a repeat playoff appearance. Since then, Portland is just 6-16 including a current losing streak of six games. Defense has been the primary issue for the Blazers, as the team is allowing a comical 110.5 points per 100 possessions. While teams with questionable defenses (i.e. Houston) can succeed by simply being average on that end, the team from Portland isn’t even approaching average right now.
Can it be fixed? Absolutely. With all of the couching about roster management, this is still a franchise that has much more talent than their current record indicates. Beyond that, the Blazers are within striking distance of the playoffs at this moment with teams like the Kings and Nuggets not exactly forming a murderer’s row. The early returns on Paul Allen’s off-season investment appear to be ugly, though, and righting the ship in full won’t be easy.
Where will the Blazers fall in this week’s NBA Power Rankings? Let’s find out.
1. Golden State Warriors (27-5, Last week — 1st)
Golden State might have a Cleveland problem, but losing to the Cavs by a point on the road isn’t enough to remove the Warriors from the top spot. This is still the team with easily the best net rating (+12.3) in the NBA. And the Warriors reeled off seven straight wins before the controversial loss on Christmas. Everybody breathe.