The Portland Trail Blazers own a respectable 18-14 record, good for 6th in the NBA’s Western Conference playoffs race. Despite that, they’re struggling with consistency, unable to separate themselves from the crowded field and join the league’s elite. Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports suggests that defense is partially to blame. In an article detailing the biggest disappointment for all 30 NBA teams, Ward-Henninger tabs personnel changes over the summer as the main reason for Portland’s drop-off from last season.
The Blazers earned a surprising No. 3 seed in the Western Conference last season, partly due to a sixth-ranked defense, but that has taken a major slip this year. While their offense is clicking behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, scoring 111.3 points per 100 possessions, the defense is 18th in the NBA with a 109.8 rating. The team replaced minutes from capable bench defenders Ed Davis, Pat Connaughton and Shabazz Napier with not-so-capable defenders like Nik Stauskas, Seth Curry and Jake Layman, so that could help explain the defensive drop-off. The Blazers remain in the hunt for a top playoff seed, though, and if they get their defense back on track they’ll be dangerous once again.
The Blazers rank 15th overall in opponent field goal percentage and 14th in opponent True Shooting percentage.