NBA power rankings: Blazers right in the middle

KGW's Jared Cowley, Orlando Sanchez and Nate Hanson make their fearless predictions for the Blazers' record this coming season, as well as which players will lead the team in points, rebounds and assists.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Even though the NBA season tips off Tuesday night, the Portland Trail Blazers will need to wait one extra day to start their season.

Portland starts the season with a three-game road trip, beginning Wednesday in Phoenix (7 p.m., NBC Sports Northwest, 620 AM). The Blazers, who finished 41-41 and were swept by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs last season, return 12 players from the 2016-17 roster.

Portland's top three players, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, match up well with any team's top collection of talent outside of Golden State. But questions surrounding the team's depth, defense and health have NBA pundits lukewarm on the Blazers' potential to start the season.

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Here's a look at where the Blazers line up in the first batch of power rankings:

ESPN: Blazers rank No. 14

Portland's neighbors: Milwaukee Bucks at 13, New Orleans Pelicans at 15

What they wrote: Damian Lillard averaged 25 points per game each of the past two seasons but wasn't selected an All-Star in either season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he is one of three players to average 25 PPG and not make an All-Star team in back-to-back seasons, joining Michael Redd and Purvis Short. Neither Redd nor Short did so in three consecutive seasons.

NBC Sports: Blazers rank No. 13

Portland's neighbors: L.A. Clippers at 12, Memphis Grizzlies at 14

What they wrote: It’s just the preseason, but the facts that Portland went 5-0 and Evan Turner found his shooting stroke are both good signs. C.J. Mccollum is suspended for the opener (you can’t leave the bench during an altercation, this isn’t a new rule) so look for Pat Connaughton to get the start.

USA TODAY: Blazers rank No. 15

Portland's neighbors: Utah Jazz at 14, Memphis Grizzlies at 16

What they wrote: We know what Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are capable of, but the real X factor here is Jusuf Nurkic, who emerged as a legitimate third option during the latter portion of last season after being traded from Denver.

NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 13

Portland's neighbors: Utah Jazz at 12, Milwaukee Bucks at 14

What they wrote: If Evan Turner's preseason (15-for-25 shooting, plus-62 in 77 minutes) is an indication of things to come, the Blazers are going to be great. Winning their last five preseason games is a good sign, because they need to get off to a strong start, having one of the league's easiest schedules over the first five weeks. Pat Connaughton will take Allen Crabbe's spot in the rotation and may start on Wednesday with C.J. McCollum serving a one-game suspension.

CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 17

Portland's neighbors: Miami Heat at 16, Utah Jazz at 18

What they wrote: In the past 14 months of regular-season play, the Blazers have finished over .500 in just five of those months, and that includes several over-.500 months with less than six games in October and April. My point is that this has been a bad team, overall, the past two years. Here is the single question you have to ask to figure out if Portland's going to be good: Do you believe in Nurkic fever?

Bleacher Report: Blazers rank No. 14

Portland's neighbors: Miami Heat at 15, L.A. Clippers at 13

What they wrote: A full season of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic means we should probably adjust our expectations upward for the Portland Trail Blazers. That group produced a plus-11.3 net rating in 419 minutes last year, and Portland went 14-6 in the 20 games during which all three were healthy enough to play. Read more here.

Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. Follow him on Twitter here.

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