Trail Blazers Make The Top 10 Of ESPN's Latest NBA Power Rankings

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

The 2018 offseason has been something of a mixed bag for the Portland Trail Blazers. On one hand, starting center Jusuf Nurkić was re-signed to a very team-friendly contract, quality summer league performances from rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. provided reason for optimism and using what little space they had to sign free agents Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas will hopefully shore up some deficiencies going into the 2018-19 season.

On the other, the Trail Blazers have thus far been unable to swing a deal for a veteran with playoff experience, one of the team's stated goals going into the offseason after being swept by the Pelicans in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, and had to part ways with Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton, all of whom played important roles on a team that finished third in the Western Conference last season. That, along with other teams making significant moves over the past month through both trades and free agency, seems to have left some in Rip City concerned about the Trail Blazers' ability to keep pace next season, let alone take a step forward, in an ever-improving Western Conference.

But while the offseason thus far hasn't played out the way the team nor their fans might have preferred, they're still one of the youngest teams in the league with one of the best backcourts in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. That's enough for the folks at ESPN to put the Trail Blazers at No. 10 in their latest NBA Power Rankings, a five-spot improvement from ESPN's last rankings posted on June 8...

10. Portland Trail Blazers (7)

2017-18 record: 49-33

Result: L, West Round 1

Previous rank: No. 15

The Blazers don't have a lot of ways to improve their roster because of a landlocked cap sheet, but the additions of Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry bolster the shooting depth of an already solid perimeter team. Shabazz Napier had a breakout season filling in for Damian Lillard and Ed Davis is a consistent energy player, but their losses can be quickly filled by other in-house options. The Blazers appeared to take a big step forward last season before a first-round face plant, and with the conservative offseason approach it looks as if the front office is betting on the finish being a fluke. -- Young

Key additions: Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry

Key subtractions: Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis

While 10th overall in ESPN's rankings, the Blazers come in at No. 7 among Western Conference teams behind the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder, Jazz, Nuggets and Lakers. While you could quibble with a few of those making the list over Portland, the Pelicans came in two spots behind at No. 12 despite sweeping the Trail Blazers out of the 2018 postseason, so No. 10 seems like a reasonable compromise.

The Trail Blazers are behind LeBron James and the Lakers at No. 9 and ahead of the Indiana Pacers at No. 11.


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