The Trail Blazers’ 13-game winning streak might be over, but it appears the good times should continue rolling for the foreseeable future. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks (Insider required) recently forecasted the next three seasons of NBA rankings, and Portland ended up in the No. 9 slot.
Each team was graded on five separate categories ranging from personnel to draft assets. Portland received its highest marks in the “Players” and “Management” categories, which resulted in an average score of 56.5 on a scale of 1 to 100.
Along with their score, Pelton had this to say about the Blazers’ future:
Over the past month, the Blazers have shown that a core built around the backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum can contend in the Western Conference. That’s big because Portland’s committed salary will make it difficult to add to the group until at least 2020.
Even retaining all of this year’s free agents could be a challenge, a key reason the Blazers’ roster doesn’t rate higher. Portland is already flirting with the 2019-20 luxury tax and has three key free agents in starting center Jusuf Nurkic, backup center Ed Davis and backup guard Shabazz Napier. That could make this season’s playoffs crucial for the Blazers’ future, since owner Paul Allen has shown he’s willing to pay the tax for a contending team.
In the long run, the development of rookie center Zach Collins could help the Blazers move on from either Davis or Nurkic.
The Blazers are ranked in the middle of a tough Northwest Division. Utah and Denver finished in front of Portland while Minnesota and Oklahoma City lagged just behind. All five teams managed to finish inside the top 15 of the future rankings.
You can read the full list of rankings from Pelton and Marks by visiting ESPN (Insider required).