It’s been a weird week for the Portland Trail Blazers. They got two good wins, one against Charlotte thanks to Anthony Tolliver of all people having a great fourth quarter, and another against Houston on the road, which may have been the best win of the season. Then they lost to the Mavericks and the Thunder, that OKC game being played without the majority of their regulars thanks to a big trade — which you can see the breakdown for here — and an ankle injury for CJ McCollum.
So after a salary-cutting move and a .500 week, how do most outlets rank Portland among the other 29 teams?
ESPN’s Royce Young dropped the Blazers to 20th, writing that the big trade from this weekend might be a sign that the Blazers know their limits for this season.
The Portland locker room was an odd place Saturday, barren and quiet with only eight players in it after a 13-point loss to the Thunder. With more injuries and now a trade made to shed salary, the Blazers might be coming to grips with the reality of this season. Even if they can turn it around, the best they can likely achieve is the seventh or eighth seed. So the priorities are shifting to trimming the most expensive roster in the league and possibly setting the table for a better 2020-21.
Carmelo Anthony certainly delivered in his revenge game against the Rockets on Wednesday. Anthony dusted off his vintage self at the Toyota Center, burying seven of 10 shots en route to 18 points. Anthony remains steady as Portland climbs back into the playoff race. His year-long absence from the NBA is shocking in retrospect
Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes has the Blazers 20th, pointing to the injury to CJ McCollum against Dallas on Friday as a disappointing development.
The Blazers’ plague of injuries had already claimed bigs and wings this season, so why not add a key guard to the epidemic?
CJ McCollum’s sprained ankle, suffered Friday in Dallas, comes at an inopportune time. Portland secured a contentious 117-107 win in Houston on Wednesday, easily among the team’s best performances this season, and was scrapping admirably with the Mavericks when McCollum had to exit. Nobody’s arguing the Blazers were on the verge of a full turnaround, but they had looked undeniably better in the leadup to that injury.
New acquisition Trevor Ariza could add stouter defense and more reliable shotmaking than Kent Bazemore, but that deal hardly registers as a needle-mover and may actually be geared toward adding financial flexibility this summer.
Portland went 2-2 this week, but the loss of its No. 2 scorer stings.
Finally, Colin Ward-Henniger of CBS Sports ranked Portland 20th, touching on the McCollum injury and the trade.
Portland started the week with consecutive wins over the Hornets and Rockets, but then dropped games to the Mavericks and Thunder. The Blazers made a trade to provide some salary cap relief, a possible sign that they’re not looking to make a “win now” move before the trade deadline. CJ McCollum suffered an ankle injury against the Mavs which kept him out of the Thunder game as well — the last thing the Blazers need at this point.
The Blazers will take on the Golden State Warriors tonight at 7 p.m. PT.