With a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 14, the Portland Trail Blazers ended the week with a record of 10 wins and four losses. This record puts them at the front of the Northwest division and is good for second in the Western Conference, a game behind the defending champion Golden State Warriors. All around the League, the Blazers are making a splash and sit just shy of the top on most power ranking lists. After week four, ESPN has Portland listed at fourth overall behind the Toronto Raptors, the Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks. Rotoworld and UPROXX both follow the trend while four organizations list the Blazers at fifth, adding the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers to the mix. Finally, CBS has them all the way at second behind only the Raptors.
What exactly puts the Blazers off to such a good start? They hold a record of 6-2 against teams with a winning record with their only losses being to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, they’re in the bottom 10 in the league in blocks, assists, steals and personal fouls with their only top five standings being in free throw percentage and rebounds. Despite this, they are quoted in several different rankings lists as having a top five offense and a top five defense.
It should come as no surprise that the offense is spearheaded by the stellar guard duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Of their seventh-place 115 points per game, Lillard and McCollum only make up 47, less than half of their total. Truth be told, the Trail Blazers have so much depth to their lineup. Center Jusuf Nurkic is averaging a double-double with 15.7 points and a team-leading 10.7 rebounds per game. Zach Collins, Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu are all averaging over nine points as well, with Aminu also bringing in over eight rebounds a game.
That being said, the Western Conference historically is very volatile, as the depth within the conference is remarkable. The Blazers might be one of four teams with 10 wins, but the top eight teams in the conference all have eight wins at the least. Four more teams below them have a winning percentage of at least 50 and are only a game out of playoff contention at most.
The season is far from over and it’s easy to sleep on the Blazers with such star-studded lineups looking to stomp the competition. For example, the Warriors, Lakers and Houston Rockets all boast rosters that deserve no less than a championship berth, but only one team can make it to the end. The Trail Blazers definitely have what it takes but it might be too early to place all the faith in this team being the best. Nevertheless, it was quality basketball that got them to this start and that’s what the game is all about in the end.