Full-season projections are often perilous in the NBA world and that was doubly true for the Western Conference this season. As usual, there were (very) strong teams at the top with the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets (before their recent struggles) and, beyond that, the “problem” with the West was that too many playoff-level teams were in the mix. Of course, that isn’t actually a problem but, in making predictions, high-level teams had to be omitted from the top eight and the Portland Trail Blazers were a common choice to be among the odd teams out.
After approximately 15 percent of the season, those predicting the downfall of Terry Stotts’ team can’t be feeling terribly optimistic, as the Blazers are playing quality basketball. As of Nov. 12, the Blazers own a top-five offense and a top-five defense, putting the complete package together on the way to a +9.2 net rating. Portland is riding a four-game winning streak and while that is impressive in any context, the Blazers own a slew of quality wins in the early going, including victories over Boston, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Houston and Indiana.
As usual, the Blazers are led by the stellar backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Lillard has been fantastic and, while McCollum hasn’t been lights-out by his high standards, Portland has been buoyed by strong depth. Coming into the campaign, the Blazers weren’t exactly recognized for a deep bench but players like Evan Turner, Nik Stauskas and 2017 lottery pick Zach Collins have exceeded expectations and the end result is a strong overall showing by a team that seems bound for the postseason yet again.
It has to be noted that, despite this fantastic 13-game sample, nothing is assured for the Blazers, and that is the nature of the do-or-die West. Still, it would be tough to ask for a better start on behalf of Portland and, with that in mind, let’s find out where the squad sits in our latest Dime power rankings.