The Trail Blazers fruitful offseason continued to garner positive praise in the first part of ESPN’s Top 100 Player Rankings. For the 2020-21 season, Jusuf Nurkic and newcomer Robert Covington made the list between No. 100 and No. 50.
Covington, who was acquired from the Rockets at the start of the offseason frenzy, landed at No. 60 on ESPN’s list of top players. ESPN contributor Tim MacMahon explained that Covington’s penchant for disrupting opposing offenses should bolster the Blazers’ lagging defense.
Portland gave up two first-round picks for Covington because the Trail Blazers needed to drastically improve a defense that ranked 27th in the league last season. At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Covington can disrupt offenses on the perimeter and at the rim, especially excelling as a help defender. Covington ranked second in the NBA in deflections (237) and tied for 10th in blocks (93) last season.
Nurkic, who missed the majority of the 2019-20 season while recovering from a gruesome leg injury, finished at No. 53 on the list. ESPN’s Royce Young discussed how Nurkic raises the floor for the entire roster.
The road back for Nurkic was a long one, but after returning in the bubble from a gruesome broken leg, he showed all the familiar signs. He was tough, he was big, he was skilled. The numbers have been clear the past few seasons: When he’s on the floor, Portland is exponentially better. But that can sometimes be an issue; Nurkic doesn’t often play more than 30 minutes per game.
For those doing a quick projection at home, it is fairly safe to assume that four Blazers players are likely to end up inside ESPN’s player rankings.
You can check out the first half of ESPN’s Top 100 at ESPN+ (subscription required).