POWER RANKINGS » Trail Blazers In The Middle Of An Uncertain Offseason

by Casey Holdahl
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Let’s start this review of Offseason Power Rankings with a few statements of fact.

• The 2020 NBA Draft has not taken place yet, though it is scheduled for November 18.

• Free agency has not yet started, nor is there a date for when the signing period might take place.

• The NBA and the Players Association last week agreed, once again, to push the deadline for potentially terminating the current collective bargaining agreement as the two parties work through a myriad of issues brought on by COVID-19.

• How the league is going to deal with a precipitous drop in Basketball Related Income and the subsequent effect on the salary cap is still to be determined.

• Deadlines for contractual decisions such as picking up/declining options are still to be determined.

• No one knows when next season is going to start and what that season will look like both in terms of number of games played and the location of those games.

Given these circumstances, it seems very likely that teams will look decidedly different after all those issues are worked through than they do now. So while ranking all 30 NBA teams is always an act of speculation, trying to define relative quality with so many variables yet to be decided requires Nostradamus-level soothsaying.

With all of that said, here’s where the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that does seem unlikely to look all that different if/when the 2020-21 season starts, come out in the most recent round of Power Rankings. Perhaps the relative stasis of Portland’s roster is the reason they garner the same rankings in all four examples...

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 in their "way too early" power rankings:

2019-20 record: 35-39
Result: L, first round
2021 title odds: +3000

This was something of a transition year for the Blazers. They dealt with key departures from a group that went to the Western Conference finals, as well as a rash of injuries that put them in a hole to climb out of just to make the playoffs. Their bubble run was rousing but ultimately capped a disappointing season. Continuity has been the hallmark of the Blazers, who've retained the same GM, the same coach and the same star. The roster is largely under contract (Hassan Whiteside and Carmelo Anthony are the big offseason questions), but the Blazers will need to make changes if they're to rise back to the upper tier of the West.

The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Jazz at No. 13 and ahead of the Thunder at No. 15,

• Zach Harper at The Athletic has the Trail Blazers at No. 14, two spots worse than their last ranking...

14. Portland Trail Blazers (Previously 12th)
Offseason priority: They need wing depth. Losing Rodney Hood to the Achilles’ tendon really hurt. It came after losing Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless in the previous summer was devastating for their depth and defense. Gary Trent Jr emerged and Carmelo Anthony had a reclamation project. But the Portland Trail Blazers still need some defensive players on the wing. Asking Damian Lillard to guide this team to 120 points every night isn’t feasible. The returns of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are huge, but this team needs some quick, agile, lanky guys on the perimeter to get stops.

Why did they end up at this ranking? I never thought they were as bad as their regular season, but they’re obviously not as good as their bubble run. It’s somewhere in-between. With Nurkic and Collins back, we should see a much more stable effort from the Blazers on both ends of the floor. Also, if they can add a solid wing to the group, it would go a long way.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Rockets at No. 13 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 15.

• Kurt Helin at Yahoo! Sports has the Trail Blazers at, you guessed it, No. 14 in his "way way too early" rankings...

14. Trail Blazers (35-39). Portland isn’t poised to make a lot of roster moves this offseason, but they will have a healthy Jusuf Nurkic to add to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, so they don’t need to do much to remain a threat. Carmelo Anthony is a free agent and says he found a home in Portland, but with Zach Collins and Rodney Hood healthy there may be a steep minutes drop for ‘Melo, which may have him looking elsewhere. Hassan Whiteside also is a free agent.

Helin has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 13 and ahead of the Pelicans at No. 15.

• Finally, the dried out husk that used to be Sports Illustrated has the Trail Blazers at No. 14... 

14. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland fans can convince themselves that they’re in the Finals hunt with a healthy Jusuf Nurkic next season, but there remain reasons for skepticism. This is still a team bereft of wing talent, one that relied heavily on Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza last season. No disrespect to Damian Lillard, who remains one of the top scoring guards of the 21st century. But teams with tiny point guards have a ceiling without a superb supporting cast. It’s a shame Lillard has never gotten support quite like Stephen Curry. Expect another impressive statistical season followed by a likely early exit in the 2021 playoffs.

The folks at SI/Maven/whatever they're calling it these days have Portland behind the 76ers at No. 13 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 15.

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