This will follow the same format as my last update, drawing heavily on the work of John Hollinger.
Portland continues to plod along, playing the fewest possessions per game in the league, 88.6 For reference, the median pace is 94.2, so Blazer games are about 6% slower than the average game.
Portland is tied for 2nd (with the Lakers) in the NBA in points scored per 100 possessions at 110. The Cavs are leading the league at 111.4 points per 100 possessions. The worst offensive teams so far have been the Wolves, Charlotte, Philly, the Clippers, and (dead last) the Thunder. The median efficiency is 104.4.
Portland continues to struggle defensively. The Blazers have allowed 105.7points/100 possessions. This is a slight improvement from my last update, but still bad. The Blazers have been the 22nd best defensive team so far. The five worst defensive teams are Minnesota, New Jersey, Golden State, Sacramento and Washington. The best defensive teams thus far have been the Celtics, Cavs, Lakers, Magic and Nuggets. The Cavs have a chance to be #1 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, which hasn't happened since the dominant 72 win Bulls. The Blazers just don't play good individual defense or good team defense right now.
Looking a Bit Deeper at Offense- Why are the Blazers Having Success?
Offensive efficiency can come from 4 different areas: shooting a high percentage, getting a lot of offensive rebounds, not turning the ball over and getting to the foul line. Taking care of the ball, a strength of the Blazers in the early going, has been a problem of late. The Blazers have slipped to the 9th best team in terms of taking care of the ball (9th fewest turnovers per possession). The Blazers also have the league's best offensive rebound rate (we have the 4th best defensive rebound rate-- rebounding has been a major area of improvement this year). In terms of shooting the ball, the Blazers are doing more "living by the 3" than "dying by the 3.." The Blazers are 9th in effective field goal % (down from 6th in the last update), which takes the value of 3s into account. In True Shooting %, which takes FTs into account, Portland is 10th (down from 7th in the last update). The Blazers continue to be above average in every area of offensive basketball, though the hot shooting has cooled to some degree.
Hollinger Player Stats
A quick look at the PER rating.
PG: Blake is 25th among PGs and Sergio is 33rd. So far, the top PGs are Paul, Harris, Parker, Billups and Terry.
SG: Roy is the 4th rated SG (behind Wade, Ginobili and Kobe) and 14th overall player. He has a strong all-star case. Rudy is the #13 rated SG. He's also the #5 rated rookie, behind Speights, Mayo, George Hill and Rose.
SF: Batum is 35th among SFs (he was in the top 15 well into November) and Outlaw is 27th.
PF: Aldridge is the #17 rated PF as his PER has been climbing of late. He's right around his PER from last year. Lately his shooting has been more efficient, but I'd still like to see more 50+% shooting games from him. I won't talk about rebounding.
C: Oden has fallen quite a ways. He's now rated as the 17th best Center in the league (down from 6th last update). Oden is behind the likes of Matt Bonner, Marc Gasol and Javale McGee. Then again, he's ahead of Andrew Bogut and Spencer Hawes. He's the 9th rated rookie. Meanwhile, Joel's career year continues. He's currently 10th among Centers in PER. Joel and Greg are 2nd and 3rd in the NBA in rebound rate, with only Superman ahead of them. Also, Joel has by far the NBA's best True Shooting %, an otherwordly .805 (Bonner is 2nd at .678).
Summary: The Blazers continue to put up strong offensive numbers and poor defensive numbers. It will be interesting to see how the numbers change as the Blazers move into the more home-heavy portion of the schedule. Despite the two heartwrenching losses this past week, the Blazers find themselves in a decent position. Hollinger has the Blazers 5th in his power rankings, Jeff Sagarin has them 7th. Hollinger gives the Blazers a 97.3% chance at the playoffs... coolstandings.com has that number at 92.6%. While the Blazers playoff chances have dropped in the past week, its worth noting that they never rose this high last year, even after the 13 game win streak. The Blazers need to use these days off wisely and get back on track against Sacramento and Phoenix.