The Portland Trail Blazers went one-of-three last week, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks, defeating the Golden State Warriors, and losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After an active but underwhelming NBA Trade Deadline, the team is now slotted in at No. 19 in the national NBA power rankings. Depending on who you ask and what criteria you consider, this represents a slight move up or a swift move down. John Schuhmann of NBA.com and Zach Harper of The Athletic offer their opinions.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. 19 (previously No. 20)
The Blazers rank as a bottom-five defensive team for the fourth straight year, and over their last five games, they’ve allowed an amazing 127.9 points per 100 possessions (their worst defensive stretch of the season), even though none of the five opponents have had a top-10 offense. On Friday, the Thunder had 70 points in the paint and beat the Blazers with a 35-9, fourth-quarter run in which those 35 points came on just 16 possessions.
It seems like the Blazers made a backwards move at the deadline, but size matters on defense, and this team did get bigger and longer on the wings, swapping 6-foot-4 Josh Hart and 6-foot-2 Gary Payton II for 6-foot-7 Cam Reddish and 6-foot-5 Matisse Thybulle. The Blazers rank 28th in deflections per game (12.0), and they’ve added the guy (Thybulle) who ranks fifth with 4.9 deflections per 36 minutes, 3.1 more than Hart has averaged (1.8). Reddish shot 37.9% from 3-point range the last time he got regular rotation minutes (with Atlanta in the first half of last season) and, while Thybulle remains a poor and reluctant shooter, he does move well without the ball. Damian Lillard should empower both more than their previous teammates have.
The Blazers will have a relatively tough schedule after the All-Star break, but they go into the break with an opportunity — games against the Lakers and Wizards — to get back to .500. They’re 13-11 (7-5 at home) against the other 12 teams that currently have losing records, a mark that includes a win in Washington 10 days ago in which the two teams combined to score 128 points per 100 possessions.
Zach Harper, The Athletic: No. 19 (previously No. 16)
Did the trade deadline serve them well? Maybe? If they end up with the Knicks’ pick in the first-round, then it turns out to be a good trade deadline for the Blazers. I didn’t love their moves. I wanted Portland to be more aggressive in improving the team, and even as a guy who still (foolishly?) believes in Cam Reddish, I don’t think they made this roster better. Matisse Thybulle just doesn’t do it for me, in that respect. But luckily, their core is still very solid.