Come opening night in October, the Portland Trail Blazers will likely field a very similar team to the one that was unceremoniously bounced from the first round of the NBA Playoffs this past spring. While they re-signed Norman Powell to a five-year deal, the additions of Cody Zeller, Ben McLemore and Tony Snell to minimum deals have many feeling uninspired about the team’s chances to compete for a title, despite mounting pressure from franchise star Damian Lillard.
Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz is among the doubters, placing the team 14th in his post-free agency power rankings, in between the Charlotte Hornets (15) and Chicago Bulls (13). Unsurprisingly, he has the Brooklyn Nets at the top of the pack, followed by the Milwaukee Bucks and re-tooled Los Angeles Lakers.
Of the Blazers’ outlook, Swartz writes:
So far, there’s no reason to believe Portland will be better than last year when it finished sixth in the West before losing to the Denver Nuggets in the first round. New head coach in Chauncey Billups may bring some fresh energy, but this is still a team that doesn’t play good enough defense or move the ball.
A divorce between Lillard and the Blazers seems inevitable, as Portland fields yet another pretty-good-but-not-great roster around him.
While the last sentence reads especially bleak, it’s worth noting the the Blazers still have the mid-level exception at their disposal to try and lure another free agent to Rip City, and that there’s still time to complete an impactful trade before training camp begins.
You can read Swartz’s full rankings here.