Following an early exit from the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers attempted to shift directions this summer with a coaching change and a sequence of moves aimed at improving the second unit. On Monday, NBA.com took the temperature of Portland’s offseason moves in an updated set of rankings for the Western Conference.
The Blazers landed at No. 8 in the Western Conference. NBA.com contributor John Schuhmann touched on the Blazers’ acquisition of Larry Nance Jr. and the defensive issues that plagued Portland last year.
Snagging Nance in the Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade deal was a nice move, though maybe just a modest upgrade. The Blazers’ starters were solid defensively last season (the 104.8 points per 100 possessions they allowed ranked ninth among 30 lineups that played at least 200 minutes), but have players who are 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 on the perimeter remains a tough ask on that end of the floor. Starting Robert Covington and Nance (sixth and ninth, respectively, in deflections per 36 minutes last season) — with Norman Powell moving to the bench — would add size and better neutralize the defensive deficiencies of the backcourt. The departures of Anthony and Kanter will help the defense, too, though the frontline would seemingly be less likely to withstand a third straight season where Jusuf Nurkic missed extended time.
The Blazers finished the 2020-21 regular season with a 42-30 record. In the opening round of the postseason, the Nuggets eliminated the Blazers in six games.
You can read Schuhmann’s complete look at the Western Conference by clicking here.