After a 2-1 week with wins against the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz, and a loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Portland Trail Blazers have made modest, positive movement in the Week 16 NBA power rankings. They still aren’t playing their best basketball, but they’re putting tallies in the right column.
As the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline approaches, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, The Athletic’s Zach Harper and Sports Illustrated’s Kyle Wood evaluated the team’s play and prospects respectively.
Here is what they had to say:
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. 24 (previously No. 25)
The Blazers’ starting lineup had been pretty healthy for almost eight weeks (since Damian Lillard returned from a seven-game absence in early December), and it ranks second among all lineups (behind only the Kings’ starters) in total minutes played. But it hasn’t been very good, getting outscored by 7.3 points per 100 possessions in its 209 January minutes and by 0.4 per 100 for the season. Lillard scored 97 total points (shooting 16-for-26 from 3-point range) against the Spurs and Jazz last week, but the Blazers were at their best with reserves on the floor over the two wins. And reserves were necessary on Wednesday, when both Josh Hart (hamstring) and Jusuf Nurkic (calf) were lost to injuries.
Of course, without Hart and Nurkic against Toronto on Saturday (the recently returned Nassir Little and Drew Eubanks were in their place), the Blazers were in a 16-point hole before Chauncey Billups made a sub. No matter who’s playing (though Justise Winslow has been missed), this team just isn’t very good defensively, and the wire-to-wire loss on Sunday was the Blazers’ worst defensive game of the season (123 points allowed on only 92 possessions).
The Blazers can say that they’re still just two games in the loss column out of fourth place, but they’re also a team that hasn’t won three out of four since mid-December. A win over the Hawks on Monday would give them a 3-1 stretch, but that game is followed by a three-game trip, and the Blazers have lost their last eight on the road.
Zach Harper, The Athletic: No. 19 (previously No. 22)
Buyers or sellers? Buyers. The Blazers should probably just roll with what they have and see how everything falls. There are times they look really good, and times they look like they’ll miss the Play-In Tournament. Jerami Grant is an expiring deal, but the Blazers are banking on keeping him. Portland could really mix things up by sending out Jusuf Nurkić and shaking up the rest of this support core. Josh Hart is a very cap-friendly deal. The Blazers have a good amount of control of their picks. But I don’t know if they have a significant deal available.
Kyle Wood, Sports Illustrated: No. 22 (previously No. 22)
Lillard lifted the Trail Blazers to back-to-back wins to begin the week, totaling nearly 100 points in two games. He scored 37 in a 20-point blowout against the Spurs and then set a new season high with 60, including nine made threes, to beat the Jazz by 10. Lillard added 30 more Saturday versus the Raptors, but it wasn’t enough as Portland still fell by 18. The Blazers have one more game at the Moda Center on Monday to wrap up their six-game homestand.