There isn’t really anywhere for the Portland Trail Blazers to go in the NBA Power Rankings now that they’ve settled into full-on tank mode. With losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings (twice), and a surprise win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland remains around 26-27 in Week 25. Here is what John Schuhmann of NBA.com and Zach Harper of The Athletic had to say about the team’s situation.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. 26 (previously No. 26)
For the second straight year, the Blazers turned out the lights before the season was over. They had seven players available against the Kings on Wednesday when they recorded the least efficient offensive performance for any team this season (against what was the 25th-ranked defense) and fell from 10th to 15th in offensive efficiency in just 48 minutes.
Shaedon Sharpe scored 30 of the 80 points and assisted on another 15. He’s probably not going to play much point guard going forward, but he’s clearly got a high ceiling (he can fly and has been a capable 3-point shooter) and was a nice reward for how incredibly bad the Blazers were after the All-Star break last season. Now, with fewer wins than the Magic and Pacers (despite a surprise victory in Minnesota on Sunday), the Blazers should have better Lottery odds this year.
But Damian Lillard is 13 years older than Sharpe, who will be about the same age as whomever the Blazers select this year. While Lillard had his best season ever (registering career-highs in points per game and true shooting percentage), the Blazers’ other veterans were disappointing or (in the case of Josh Hart) traded. Anfernee Simons continued to show that he can be potent offensively, but the Blazers continue to be small in the backcourt, and this will be the fourth straight season in which they’ve ranked in the bottom five defensively. So it feels like they remain at a crossroads.
Zach Harper, The Athletic: No. 27 (previously No. 26)
The season is an abject failure because once again they’ve had to turn toward an aggressive tank when they were hoping to be a playoff team. The front office gutted a lot of Damian Lillard’s support over the last two seasons, and they still don’t have enough to pull through the West. A top rookie next season is unlikely to change things, but there will be more of a bridge to help Lillard as he starts getting deep into his career while making $60 million. We may need to see a major overhaul though of this roster, especially if Jusuf Nurkić and Jerami Grant test out their free agency. The Blazers can’t keep finding themselves in this situation when starting out the season with the intention of winning.