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Top 5 Stories for the Trail Blazers Season: Defense

Defense is the one category Portland was supposed to improve in. Have they?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Today we’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday by running down the Top 5 stories in the Blazers season so far. You may think that a .500-esque record wouldn’t leave many distinct points to talk about. You’d be wrong. Check throughout the day as we unveil (and invite you to examine) the trends typifying Portland’s year to this point.

The #3 story of the year so far is defense. Promising that the Blazers will defend better next year is a rite of summer in Portland. The volume was amped up this off-season as President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey blamed his team’s prior defensive woes on departed Head Coach Terry Stotts. Bringing in a new coach with a new system was supposed to fix the Blazers’ “D” for good.

Portland has changed their defensive scheme. They make aggressive use of their centers now, sending them out to cover screens instead of back in the lane to protect the rim. Their success depends on personnel and matchups. Larry Nance, Jr. often outperforms starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Portland prospers against teams that attack in isolation more than passing teams. Either way, you can see the seeds in the ground.

They’re not growing quickly, though. At the time of this writing, the Blazers rank 28th in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed. They’re 29th in three-point percentage allowed. They allow more assists per possession than any team but Memphis. They’re mediocre in every other category except defensive rebounding. They lead the league in that stat, their lone claim to fame. It’s not enough.

The story so far is a familiar one in Portland: a third-ranked offensive efficiency coupled with a defense that just doesn’t cut it. We know how that story ends.

What do you think of Portland’s defense so far? Share your thoughts in the comments and try to guess the final two top stories!