Portland Trail Blazers Trying to Establish Themselves Among NBA’s Elite

Damian Lillard Blazers 2013-14

Mark Konezny – USA Today Sports Images

The Portland Trail Blazers headed into overtime on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, but it didn’t take long into the extra period to find out who the superior team was. The Blazers used their high-powered offense to pull ahead and earn the 118-110 victory over the Raptors. What you might be surprised to learn, though, is that the Blazers are now at 8-2 and have the second-best record in the West.

As the Blazers went through this off-season, we all knew that they made some great moves involving addressing their awful bench. The signing of Mo Williams, drafting C.J. McCollum, and trading for Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez were all moves that, on paper, would help this team improve from having one of the worst benches in the league last year.

As it turns out, their bench has indeed improved, but so has their core as LaMarcus Aldridge seems to be playing at another level and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lilllard is showing signs of whatever the opposite of a sophomore slump is. Throw that in with a still developing Nicolas Batum and an ever-solid Wesley Matthews and this team has something cooking.

This younger Blazers team is expectedly not great defensively, but their offense has more than made up for it. They currently rank third in the league in offensive rating, scoring 107.2 points per 100 possessions. Though they may only have a team true shooting percentage of 54.9, that doesn’t factor in that they are the fifth-best team in the NBA so far in terms of offensive rebounding percentage, meaning they have the big bodies to create second chances on the offensive end of the floor.

Though there is still always the risk of regression with a young team like the Blazers, everything that they’re doing thus far seems completely legitimate. They might be playing slightly over their heads to start the year, but adding a bench unit that can contribute to a team that was in the playoff hunt late last season with almost no bench at all has them looking like, not just a playoff team, but a near postseason-lock to start this year.

Cody Williams is a Senior Writer with Rant Sports. Follow Cody on Twitter @TheSizzle20, add him on Google and like his Facebook page.

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