Breaking down the Trail Blazers’ strengths and weaknesses as a contender

The Portland Trail Blazers still have a winning record despite everything that has happened this season, which places them firmly in the race for the NBA Championship. Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley examines why, exactly, the Blazers might or might not succeed. Naturally, one of the reasons the Blazers could win the chip is Damian Lillard. Despite the absence of so many starters, the Blazers have moved on.

The Blazers have played 47 games so far. CJ McCollum missed 25 of them. Nurkic missed 32. Zach Collins hasn’t played one. Surely a series of injuries like that buried this team, right? They wouldn’t be on this list if that was the case.

Somehow, Lillard has kept everything afloat, taking Portland to sixth in the conference standings and fifth in offensive efficiency. Now that McCollum and Lillard are back, Robert Covington is shooting everything he throws and Norman Powell is starting to run, Lillard and company can get through their stretch climbing on both fronts.

But there is a caveat: defense.

Despite all of Portland’s offensive success, this team has a negative net rating on the year (minus-0.2). It turns out that allowing opponents to average 116.6 points per 100 possessions, the second-highest in the NBA, is bad for the bottom line.

Lillard-McCollum’s backcourt will always be challenged on defense, and when Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter are in the same rotation, it’s the real-world equivalent of turning up the opponent’s sliders.

Hopefully the Blazers find their defense sometime this spring.

You can read the full article here.

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