And while they truly look like a contender on the offensive of the ball — they average the most points per game at 110.5 — and they are a tough team to beat when they have their starters on the floor, the reality is that they need to address several details if they want to compete against the top teams in the league.
The recent losses against the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder illustrated the fact that Terry Stotts‘ team isn’t where it is supposed to be defensively. They struggle to protect the rim and they are ranked 26th in points allowed per 100 possessions, a stat no contending team would like to have.
The bench is also suspect and while some players can produce from time to time, it is not a unit that can bail the starters out. Portland’s bench looks much improved from last season, but it will need to produce better if it wants to have a chance during the playoffs.
There is little doubt that the Blazers will return to the playoffs this year and they are a team that will be difficult to beat in a seven game series. However, if they want to be considered contenders, they need to tighten several areas before the start of the postseason.
The franchise is taking huge leaps towards contention, but they aren’t there yet.