The NBA’s current hiatus led to a three-year rankings forecast from ESPN. The Trail Blazers, who were just outside the Western Conference’s postseason picture when play halted, slid down the future rankings compared to their previous placement.
ESPN’s list focused on the talent currently on the roster, the structure of the organization, cap flexibility and draft assets. After evaluating those categories, the Blazers landed at No. 17, a six-spot slide since the last three-year forecast.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks explained that Portland’s slide was triggered by a trio of concerns.
Add the Trail Blazers to the list of the teams that fell outside the top 15. The drop is centered around three concerns: health, continued roster restrictions (though the Trail Blazers will be out of the tax next year) and the upside of their former draft picks.
Marks went on to explain that the Blazers can rise up the rankings if they avoid the injury bug and their young prospects blossom into contributors.
While Hassan Whiteside stepped in for Jusuf Nurkic, season-ending injuries to Rodney Hood (Achilles) and Zach Collins (shoulder) had Portland resembling a lottery team and not one that was in the Western Conference finals last May. How the Trail Blazers get back to a 50-win team will be determined by the health of Collins and Nurkic along with the continued development of Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Nassir Little and a lottery pick in this year’s draft.
You can read ESPN’s full rankings at ESPN+ (subscription required).