The national NBA power rankings came out on Monday across several major prominent outlets, and nearly all of them have the Portland Trail Blazers as a middle-of-the-road team ranked in the early 20s.
NBA.com’s list has the Blazers at No. 21, right behind the Milwaukee Bucks and ahead of their Western Conference rival Phoenix Suns. At 2-4, the Blazers have two wins against some credible opponents as they’ve defeated the Los Angeles Lakers at the Rose Garden
They’re extremely top-heavy, and their dismal bench is keeping them down. ESPN’s rankings have them ranked 20th in front of the Houston Rockets and rightly points out the deficiencies of the second unit. The most glaring example of that is the fact that in the game against the San Antonio Spurs, Portland was outscored 63-4 in bench points. While that incredible disparity speaks volumes as to the challenges they’ll need to overcome with their lack of depth, it also says a lot as to the talent level of the starting five as LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum have been strong enough to make this mediocre team competitive.
Playing in the Western Conference may not help this team in the short term due to the high level of competition that exists out west, but it will make this team battle-tested for years to come as they flirt with being a potential dark horse to make the playoffs in 2012-13. Don’t write this team off just yet, there’s still a lot of basketball to be played.
The real area of development for this young team is on the defensive end. They are allowing a porous 104.3 points per game through six tilts and will need to improve by leaps and bounds on that end of the floor should they expect to do anything but play for a lottery pick this year. There’s a lot to be excited about at the Rose Garden with all of the young talent the team has, but there’s plenty of work to do as well.
Michael C. Jones is the Editor of Sports Out West. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets