NBA Power Rankings continue to spill out as the 2022 offseason rolls onward. Today John Schuhmann of NBA.com released his version of the Western Conference rankings, sorting each Western team from the first-ranked Golden State Warriors to the bottom-dwelling San Antonio Spurs.
The Phoenix Suns followed the Warriors in Schuhmann’s list, with the Los Angeles Clippers taking 3rd. Readers had to scroll all the way to the 10th position to find the Portland Trail Blazers. After praising Anfernee Simons and looking askance at Portland’s defense, Schuhmann offered this about Portland:
Key question: Is size still an issue?
A lack of size on the perimeter is one of the reasons the Blazers have been so bad defensively over the last few years. And though they’ve purposely brought in good defenders, they’re still lacking size on the perimeter. Their three top guards – Lillard, Simons and Payton – are 6-2, 6-3 and 6-3. Josh Hart, who could play most of his minutes at small forward, is 6-5. Given where the roster stands, it’s hard to see Grant getting many minutes at the three.
It will be good to see Lillard alongside the improved Simons, who’s, amazingly, still just 23 years old. Hart actually averaged 19.9 points after arriving in the McCollum trade, and before he was strategically shut down for the season, Nurkic averaged 21.5 points on 59% shooting over his last four games. Before last season, the Blazers had a top-three offense in three straight seasons.
At this point last year, there was a lot of chatter about Lillard, who turned 32 this summer. That chatter is gone, he just signed another contract extension, and he’s the only guy on the roster older than 29. So this doesn’t need to be a finished product. But Chauncey Billups is under the microscope in his second year as head coach and with a team better built to compete in the tough Western Conference.