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Trail Blazers No. 14 in ESPN’s Week 1 Power Rankings

NBA: Preseason-Maccabi Haifa B.C. at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

In the first iteration of 2017-18 NBA Power Rankings, ESPN places the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 14 overall, just behind the Milwaukee Bucks, just ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans, and No. 9 among Western Conference teams. Their projected record, using ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, is 42-40, an improvement of just one win from their 2016-17 campaign:

Projected 2017-18 record: 42-40

Last season: 41-41 | L, Round 1

Damian Lillard averaged 25 points per game each of the past two seasons but wasn't selected an All-Star in either season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he is one of three players to average 25 PPG and not make an All-Star team in back-to-back seasons, joining Michael Redd and Purvis Short. Neither Redd nor Short did so in three consecutive seasons.

The Trail Blazers struggled to find momentum last season, but finished on a 14-6 clip in games that freshly acquired center Jusuf Nurkic played. The modesty of the team’s projected gain may have more to do with the increased strength of the Western Conference than actual lack of growth.

Western Conference teams ranked ahead of Portland:

Follow this link for the full rankings of NBA teams.