Widely presumed to be a middling team before the season began, Portland’s 4-1 record puts them in a three-way tie for first in the Western Conference standings with the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz. So, what do we make of this unexpected surge?
The Blazers have been one of the best stories in the league to open the young season, as they raced out to a 4-0 start before losing to the Heat in a game in which Damian Lillard suffered a calf injury. Prior to that, he was off to a tremendous start, putting up 31 points and 4.6 assists per game on 39 percent 3-point shooting. More importantly, the defense looks quicker, longer and more athletic thanks to moves dating back to last season, which is necessary for Portland to compete in the West.
The team’s move into second place represents a leap of 18 places making them one of the biggest movers in the ranking week-to-week (the Utah Jazz climbed 20 places, while the Philadelphia 76ers fell 20 places). The rankings are specifically based on weekly performance, not the whole season, so we will likely see rankings normalize toward expectation in future rankings.
With that in mind, the Trail Blazers’ surprise leap isn’t all that surprising if you’ve been watching. Portland is passing the eye test. Victories over the vaunted Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets were convincingly not flukes, but rather well-earned wins.
Which begs the question: Where do the Trail Blazers go from here? Will they stay ranked among the elite or will they plummet back to Earth? The answer is probably somewhere in between. This team is better than anyone thought they would be, but leading the conference in the long run seems unlikely – especially while Lillard sits.
Where do you put the Trail Blazers in your league ranking?