The NBA is a mess of mediocrity right now, at least if you judge from overall records, especially in the crowded Western Conference. Matt Moore of CBS Sports spent some time today identifying which .500 teams will make the playoffs and which are mirages. The Portland Trail Blazers made Moore’s list of legitimate teams, but grudgingly so.
The defense, sadly, has begun to regress in dramatic fashion, as Jusuf Nurkic's injury has helped to force a slide to 25th in defensive rating across the last ten games. Portland hasn't held a defensive rating below 105 in the past six games, or in eight of the last nine games. Their strength of schedule is going to increase. Things are about to get tougher for Portland, not easier...
...All in all, honestly, with two legit stars and whatever Nurkic brings, this team will be good enough for a playoff spot. They're not for real in a could-make-a-playoff-run-to-the-conference-finals sense. But they're also not headed for the lottery, either.
Verdict: Legit ... barely.
Moore also referenced Portland’s defense, the shooting of Al-Farouq Aminu, and their star power with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on board.