Despite opening the season with a three-game road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers got their 2017-18 season off to a nice start by going 2-1. After beating the Phoenix Suns 124-76 in the largest season-opening victory in NBA history and then besting the Indiana Pacers 114-96, Portland tasted defeat for the first time this season thanks to a career night from Giannis Antetokounmpo listed the Bucks to a 113-110 victory that wasn’t decided until the final seconds of the game. So while it wasn’t as good as it could have been, their first three games still constituted a quality start to Portland’s 2017-18 campaign.
Though that start didn’t result in much movement in the weekly Power Rankings, though that not entirely unexpected. Their 48-point victoy versus the Suns was tarnished a bit after they lost by 42 points a few days later to the Clippers, leading to head coach Earl Watson being sacked three games into the season, and their victory versus the Pacers came the Myles Turner, Indiana’s best player, sidelined with a concussion. Combine that with losing to the Bucks and you have a situation where a lot of the Power Rankers are still taking a “wait and see” approach to the 2017-18 Trail Blazers, which is probably fair.
But with 10 of their next 11 games at the Moda Center, the Trail Blazers will have plenty of opportunities to stack some wins at home while moving up the rankings. If they’re able to get their first homestand of the season off to a similar start as their first road trip, the Trail Blazers could see a significant improvements in their rankings, but until then, here’s where they ended up this week…
• The panel at ESPN.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, two spots better than last week…
Which team had the largest point differential through the first two games of a season in NBA history? That would be these Trail Blazers, who outscored their first two opponents by a combined 66 points. Granted, their historic, 48-point win on opening night over the Suns gave that a boost. Portland could be 3-0 if it hadn’t run into Antetokounmpo playing the best game of his career.
ESPN has the Trail Blazers behind the Jazz at No. 11 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 13.
• John Schuhmann at NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 13 this week, unchanged from last week…
Pace: 101.0 (18) OffRtg: 114.4 (2) DefRtg: 94.5 (5) NetRtg: +19.9 (3)
The Blazers lost just one of the 12 quarters they played last week, but that was good for just a 2-1 record, because Antetokounmpo shut them down in the final minute on Saturday. The opposition in the first two games — the disinterested Suns and the Myles Turner-less Pacers — was weak, but you take road wins any way you can get them. The Blazers have dominated the glass (leading the league in rebounding percentage) and C.J. McCollum has shot 58 percent, even though he didn’t get to play against that atrocious Phoenix defense on Wednesday.
Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 12 and ahead of the Celtics at No. 14.
• David Aldridge, also for NBA.com, has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, unchanged from their initial ranking last week…
Are second in the league after the first week in Offensive Rating (118.6 per 100) could have easily finished 3-0 on road trip. Now Portland gets an incredible 10 of its next 11 games at Moda Center.
Aldridge has the Trail Blazers behind the Timberwolves at No. 13 and ahead of the Pistons at No. 15.
• Kenny Ducey at SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 13 this week, one spot better than last week…
Portland currently ranks in the top three in net rating, but they’ve beaten up on the Pacers and Suns to get there. They certainly impressed against the Bucks, but I’m not quite sure they’re on that level yet. Side note: Is Meyers Leonard not a thing anymore? Two straight games with a DNP-CD. We need to get him back in the lineup for his annual battle with DeMarcus Cousins.
Ducey has the Trail Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 12 and ahead of the Pelicans at No. 14.
• Chris Manning at Fansided has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week…
Portland currently ranks in the top three in net rating, but they’ve beaten up on the Pacers and Suns to get there. They certainly impressed against the Bucks, but I’m not quite sure they’re on that level yet. Side note: Is Meyers Leonard not a thing anymore? Two straight games with a DNP-CD. We need to get him back in the lineup for his annual battle with DeMarcus Cousins.Two wins over the Suns and Pacers don’t place the Trail Blazers on particularly solid ground. But in two wins, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum (who was suspended for one) did Lillard and McCollum things. Both look sharp to start the year, as does Evan Turner. It’s still ill-fitting, but it worked at least for one night.
One area of concern: Jusuf Nurkic is struggling to start the year. Maybe it’s rust, but he’s shooting 40 percent through three games while looking a tad slow on defense. For Portland to have good enough team defense and hit the same peak they did last year after acquiring Nurkic, that’ll have to change in the coming weeks.
Manning has the Trail Blazers behind the Thunder at No. 9 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 11.
• Jonas Nader at RotoWorld has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week…
The Blazers tied the second-largest margin of victory in franchise history with their 48-point win over the Suns, and they have outscored their opponents in 11 out of 12 forth quarters so far. They rank second in offensive rating and fifth in defensive rating, and they also have the highest rebounding percentage in the NBA.
Nader has the Trail Blazers behind the Jazz at No. 11 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 13.
• Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com, in rankings posted on October 17, has the Trail Blazers at No. 13…
It’s just the preseason, but the facts that Portland went 5-0 and Evan Turner found his shooting stroke are both good signs. C.J. McCollum is suspended for the opener (you can’t leave the bench during an altercation, this isn’t a new rule) so look for Pat Connaughton to get the start.
Helin has the Trail Blazers behind the Clippers at No. 12 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 14.
• Grant Hughes at Bleacher Report, in rankings posted on October 17, has the Trail Blazers at No. 14…
A full season of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic means we should probably adjust our expectations upward for the Portland Trail Blazers. That group produced a plus-11.3 net rating in 419 minutes last year, and Portland went 14-6 in the 20 games during which all three were healthy enough to play.
Though the Blazers finished 41-41, their closing run following the Nurkic acquisition would seem to indicate they’re ticketed for more success.
At the same time, Portland isn’t a lock for a playoff spot. We’ve got them as ninth in the West right now, and that’s due mostly to some lingering questions.
Hughes has the Trail Blazers behind the Clippers at No. 13 and ahead of the Heat at No. 15.
• Brad Rowland at UPROXX, in rankings posted on October 17, has the Trail Blazers at No. 15…
The Blazers are going to miss Allen Crabbe. It made complete sense to dump him for (huge) luxury tax savings but he was easily the team’s best shooter outside of Lillard and McCollum and his loss will be felt. Moreover, the biggest non-shooting issue will be on the defensive end, where no one can be convinced this would be even an acceptable product. Portland may be better than this because the backcourt is tremendous and Terry Stotts is great, but they need Jusuf Nurkic to be awesome again and I’m not sure.
Rowland has the Trail Blazers behind the Clippers at No. 14 and ahead of the Heat at No. 16.