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 93.7, so Blazer games are about 6% slower than the average game. Keep in mind that offensive rebounds are not considered a new possession, so Portland's strong presence on the O-boards makes them appear even slower than they actually are.
Portland is 3rd in the NBA in points scored per 100 possessions at 109.6 (down from 110.0 last update). The Lakers are leading the league at 110.6 points per 100 possessions and the Cavs are 2nd. The worst offensive teams so far have been Sacramento, Memphis, Charlotte, OKC, and (dead last) the Clippers. The median efficiency is 104.3.
Portland continues to struggle defensively. The Blazers have allowed 106.0points/100 possessions (105.7 last update), good for 19th in the league according to Hollinger. Knickerblogger.net uses a different method to determine the number of possessions, and that leads them to conclude Portland is even worse-- the 24th best defensive team in the league (Knickerblogger has Portland as #2 offensively, ahead of the Cavs). The best defensive teams thus far have been the Celtics, Cavs, Lakers, Magic and Rockets, though my two sources don't quite agree on the order. The Kings, Warriors, Wizards and Nets play the worst D.
Looking a Bit Deeper at Offense- Why are the Blazers Having Success?
Offensive efficiency can come from 4 different areas: shooting a high effective fg percentage, getting a lot of offensive rebounds, not turning the ball over and getting to the foul line. Portland does a pretty good job taking care of the ball-- the Blazers have the 5th fewest turnovers in the league on a per possession basis. The Blazers also have the league's best offensive rebound rate (we have the 8th best defensive rebound rate which is down from 4th last update-- rebounding has been a major area of improvement this year but there is still work to be done on the defensive boards. Not surprising for anyone who has watched LMA or Outlaw "box out"). In terms of shooting the ball, the Blazers are doing more "living by the 3" than "dying by the 3 " but that has been less true of late The Blazers are 11th in effective field goal % (down from 9th in the last update), which takes the value of 3s into account. In True Shooting %, which takes FTs into account, Portland is 11th (down from 10th in the last update). The Blazers continue to be above average in every area of offensive basketball, though the hot shooting has predictably cooled. The biggest key to Portland's offensive efficiency, though, is getting a lot of 2nd chances via excellent work on the offensive boards.
Hollinger Player Stats
A quick look at the PER rating, a solid metric for evaluating offense, but in my opinion one that fails to penalize inefficient shooting enough and can't evaluate defense.
PG: Blake is 19th among PGs (easily having his best season PER-wis) and Sergio is 48th. So far, the top PGs are Paul, Harris, Parker, Nelson and Billups.
SG: Roy is the 3rd rated SG (behind Wade and Kobe) and 8th overall player. He has a rock solid all-star case. Rudy is the #16 rated SG. He's also the #7 rated rookie, behind Speights, McGee, Morrow, Love, Oden and Lopez (strange list I know).
SF: Batum is 48th among SFs (he was in the top 15 well into November) and Outlaw is 24th. The top SFs in PER are James, Granger, Durant, Kirilenko and B. Wright.
PF: Aldridge is the #12 rated PF (40th overall player) as his PER has been climbing of late. He's ahead his PER from last year. You all know what I think about this so I won't rehash it. The Top PFs by PER are Boozer, Bosh, Duncan, Nowitzki and Gasol.
C: Oden's PER continues to yo-yo significantly. After his dominant game vs. the Bucks, he moved ahead of the likes of Marc Gasol and Brook Lopez. He's currently 20th among centers and 5th among rookies; Meanwhile, Joel's career year continues but his offense has gone back to last year's form recently (could be regression to the mean or effects from his injury). He's currently 16th among Centers in PER (down from 10th last update). Oden's rebound rate has really fallen-- down to 11th in the league (he was in the top 3 for a long time). Hopefully the Bucks game was the start of a "rebound." Przy is 3rd in this category, behind Camby and Howard.
Summary: The Blazers continue to put up strong offensive numbers and poor defensive numbers. Overall, the Blazers find themselves in a decent position. Hollinger has the Blazers 7th in his power rankings, as does Jeff Sagarin. Hollinger gives the Blazers a 95.1% chance at the playoffs (and projects 50 wins and a 4th place finish in the West for Portland)... coolstandings.com has that number at 93.3% (also projecting 50 wins). The next month brings a relatively friendly schedule, which the Blazers must take advantage of.