The first week of the NBA regular season is officially over, and the Portland Trail Blazers head into the second week with a 1-1 record. After a disappointing opening night loss to the Utah Jazz, the Blazers bounced back in heart-pounding fashion with a 128-126 overtime win over the Houston Rockets.
Disheartening losses and way-too-close games? That’s right. The Blazers really are back.
So after just one week, where do the Blazers stand among the rest of the NBA? Here’s what different outlets had to say on Monday.
ESPN dropped Portland out of their top 10 to the No. 13 spot in their rankings. Royce Young explained that CJ McCollum’s electric night against Houston prevented the week from entering the disaster zone, but the worrisome holes in Portland’s roster were revealed.
CJ McCollum’s supernova 44-point eruption — including the game winner — against the Rockets gave the Blazers a decent opening week, after shrugging off an ugly 20-point loss to the Jazz. But both games revealed some early worries for Portland. Like in past seasons, the Blazers’ bench was inconsistent. The bench was an offseason focus with a few additions, and it will possibly jell as the season goes; but it’s not a great sign when Gary Trent Jr., one of your top bench weapons, plays only six minutes and goes scoreless against Houston.
Mo Dakhil for Bleacher Report also dropped the Blazers in his rankings, putting them at No. 16. Dakhil noted that Portland’s offseason additions will take time to gel.
There have been a lot of additions to the roster, and coach Terry Stotts still has to work out the rotation. Besides the rotation, the Blazers are changing up their defensive system from a conservative scheme to a more aggressive style. It will take some time to get everyone on the same page, but the pieces are there for a big run.
Finally, Colin Ward-Henniger of CBS Sports had the Blazers at No. 19 on his list. Ward-Henniger cited a rough week and explained that the Blazers’ contender hopes are tied to an underperforming defense. (NOTE: These rankings only take into account last week’s performances, not preseason projections, which is why teams like the Hawks and the Cavaliers are so high.)
Coming into the season with plenty of hype due to a revamped roster, we got a reminder this week that the Blazers still have a long way to go to incorporate their new parts. They were completely stifled on opening night in a blowout loss to the Jazz, then needed a 44-point effort and a game-winner from CJ McCollum to hang onto a close win over the severely undermanned Houston Rockets. The defense will need to significantly improve if the Blazers are going to get back into the top tier of the Western Conference.
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