PORTLAND, Ore. — One year ago, the Portland Trail Blazers were eight games under .500 with a 23-31 record, one of the worst teams in the NBA.
A year later, things look a lot different. The team has certainly been inconsistent but it's undeniable that the team is in a better place today, with a 31-26 record, good for sixth place in the Western Conference.
It was also a year ago, on Feb. 12, 2017, as noted by NBC Sports Northwest's Jason Quick on Twitter, that the Blazers traded Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets for Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick, which Portland used to trade up to draft Zach Collins.
Blazers fans aren't as high on Nurkic as they were last season, but it's impossible to deny that Portland has been a better team since they acquired him.
Here's a quick look at how the team differs a year later, with NBA rank in parentheses:
Note: Stats for the 2016-17 season are from before the All-Star break
- 2017-18: 105.2 (15th)
- 2016-17: 106.5 (13th)
- 2017-18: 104.9 (10th)
- 2016-17: 109.0 (26th)
- 2017-18: +0.3 (14th)
- 2016-17: -2.5 (23rd)
The Portland Trail Blazers have one more game before the All-Star break, a matchup Wednesday at the Moda Center against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Let's see how the Blazers fared in this week's power rankings:
RANKINGS PUBLISHED MONDAY
Previous ranking: 5
Portland's neighbors: Boston Celtics at 7, Indiana Pacers at 5
What they wrote: The Blazers got themselves under the luxury tax by moving Noah Vonleh to the Bulls. A solid move for them all things considered. They'll play out the season as is, but they might already be near their ceiling with this core.
Previous ranking: 6
Portland's neighbors: San Antonio Spurs at 8, Indiana Pacers at 6
What they wrote: The Blazers' offense ranked third in January and Damian Lillard dropped 50 in Sacramento on Friday, but the offense has otherwise struggled over the last five games, even though Maurice Harkless has shot well (58 percent, 8-for-16 from 3-point range) with more playing time over that stretch. Portland remains the only team that has recorded assists on less than half its buckets, ranks last in field goal percentage in the restricted area and last in fast break points per game. Portland sits in sixth place in the West, but teams 6-9 are all tied with 26 losses and with the Jazz having ended their nine-game home winning streak on Sunday, the champs are coming to town for the final game before the break.
Portland's neighbors: Oklahoma City Thunder at 12, Milwaukee Bucks at 10
What they wrote: The Blazers are 2–4 in February, and they play the Warriors in their last game before the All-Star break.
Previous ranking: 10
Portland's neighbors: Denver Nuggets at 12, Washington Wizards at 10
What they wrote: Damian Lillard scored 50 points in 29 minutes against the Kings on Friday. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he joined Klay Thompson and teammate CJ McCollum -- who did it on Feb. 1 -- as the only players in NBA history to score 50 points in fewer than 30 minutes played.
Previous ranking: 13
Portland's neighbors: Denver Nuggets at 13, Washington Wizards at 11
What they wrote: The Blazers have lost four of their last six games — a span during which they have the NBA's 22nd-ranked defense, allowing 110.5 points per 100 possessions.
RANKINGS PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY
NBC Sports: Blazers rank No. 16 (down 3)
Previous ranking: 13
Portland's neighbors: New Orleans Pelicans at 17; L.A. Clippers at 15
What they wrote: The Trail Blazers offense was hot for a while, then has cooled off (despite a 50 spot from Damian Lillard) but the ups-and-downs are expected in an offense where the pick-and-roll ball handler or a guy in isolation take 30.3 percent of the shots (this team does not move the ball well, which can lead to contests against good defenses). Fun matchup Wednesday night when the Blazers face the Warriors: Lillard and C.J. McCollum vs. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.