The start of the 2022-23 NBA season is still a couple months away, but that hasn’t stopped Zach Harper of The Athletic from releasing early power rankings for all 30 teams. You may think that adding Jerami Grant, Shaedon Sharpe, and Gary Payton II during the offseason may have helped the Blazers leap forward on the list, but you’d only be partially right. They’re not in the doldrums of the bottom three as they were at the end of last season, but they’ve only managed to advance to 19th on The Athletic’s list via their summer moves.
Of the Blazers, Harper says:
Did this team get better? The Portland Trail Blazers absolutely got better. It’s kind of hard not to after the brutal end to the season they had. The Blazers set the record for most 30-point losses in a season with 15 (the previous record was 10). Damian Lillard is back, and that will help. They brought back Anfernee Simons on a nine-figure deal. The pickups of Grant and Payton should help
Chauncey Billups get this team to have a bigger impact defensively. Sharpe is a project, but a fun project. The Blazers are going to be back, but is it enough to guarantee them a spot in the postseason? Do they have to prove they can make the Play-In at least in a reloaded West?
Do we like what they did? [article inserts muscle emoji here]
This description both typifies and echoes what pundits have been saying about Portland since they consummated their draft and free agency moves. “We like what they’ve done. We’re just not sure if it’ll make a difference.”
For comparison, the Blazers sit just south of the Cleveland Cavaliers at 17 and the Los Angeles Lakers at 18 in the rankings. Portland stands above the New York Knicks at 20 and the Washington Wizards at 21. The Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, and Phoenix Suns have the top three positions, in that order.