As the NBA off-season rolls along, the Portland Trail Blazers continue to rank among the mystery teams when comparing level of improvement over last season. Few doubt that Portland will eclipse their 27 wins earned in 2021-22. Returning a halfway-healthy lineup should take care of that. But goals are higher in the Rose City. The Blazers want to content for an NBA Title behind All-Star guard Damian Lillard. Whether they’ve achieved that level of forward progress, or even gotten close, remains under debate.
The argument found light again this week in an article from The Athletic, grading all 30 NBA Franchises on their moves after the busiest part of this summer’s free agency feeding frenzy.
According to staff writer Mike Vorkunov, Portland received a “B” grade for their off-season results: good, but not among the strongest movers. Vorkunov explains:
The Blazers definitely got better this offseason. They added Jerami Grant in a trade, signed Gary Payton II and re-signed Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkić. They capped their offseason by getting Damian Lillard to agree to a contract extension. Joe Cronin has stabilized the franchise in his first summer on the job, and Portland should be a playoff contender next season in a deep Western Conference. Maybe all the contract values aren’t perfect, and you can quibble with salaries for Nurkić and Simons, but the biggest thing was not only maintaining the talent level but improving it to build a more versatile and athletic team around Lillard. Shaedon Sharpe is a moonshot pick at No. 7, and time will tell how that works out. But the logic makes sense, and the talent is there to offer a high ceiling. Jabari Walker also seems like an intriguing second-round pick.
While the assessment is positive, the distance between “playoff contender” and “title contender” is vast. So far, most national pundits are nodding at Portland’s efforts, but like Vorkunov, still shrugging when asked if they’ll ultimately matter.