The Portland Trail Blazers are a “borderline playoff team” according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Lowe ranked the Blazers somewhere in the mushy middle of the NBA pack in an article running down the 2020 Playoffs prospects for all 30 teams.
Lowe’s top contenders were the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76’ers, Utah Jazz, and (provisionally) the Houston Rockets. Five other teams, including division rival Denver, fell in tiers above Portland’s. The Blazers sit it a tier of ten along with the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, and the World Champion Toronto Raptors.
Lowe does not rank teams within tiers. Presumably the Blazers could fall anywhere between 12th and 21st in his hierarchy.
The famed columnist did sound somewhat apologetic about his Portland placement:
Yup, for the second straight year I’m doubting the Blazers. I’m a moron, obviously. They have a rock-solid culture, a great coach, and one of those scoring stars who pulls even bad teams -- and this is far from a bad team -- toward .500. I didn’t hate their offseason makeover, either. They lost size and defensive versatility effectively swapping Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless for Kent Bazemore and more Rodney Hood, but I can’t blame them after watching Aminu and Harkless brick wide-open 3s in the playoffs every season.
Hassan Whiteside in a contract year is as good a placeholder for Jusuf Nurkic as Portland was going to snare. Zach Collins is solid at both frontcourt positions, and the Blazers are confident Anfernee Simons is ready for major minutes. They have the means to make a win-now trade (or two) in February.
Their perimeter defense is a little squishy. I don’t trust Whiteside. Can he make enough quick-hitting reads when opponents double Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum? Whiteside is boasting about triple-doubles, but he averaged 1.2 dimes per game last season.
The Blazers are good. Their placement here is more about life in the West...
As is his wont, Lowe gave full details on each pick. The article will take up most of a lunch hour, and is well worth reading for anyone previewing this year’s NBA season.