Are the 2022-23 Portland Trail Blazers better than last season?
Patrick Rogers | Oregon Sports News
The Portland Trail Blazers have eclipsed their 2022 season win total, which is something to celebrate. While this year is fresh on our minds (and some people think the sky is falling), we should revisit last year’s team to see how far we have come. As we dive into the numbers, one thing becomes clear: this team is a lot of fun to watch on offense. With stars like Damian Lillard leading the charge, the Blazers have improved in several key offensive categories. However, when it comes to defense, well… let’s just say they still have some work to do.
Notable Differences In Stats
2022 ORtg- 27th
2023 ORtg – 8th
2022 eFG% – 25th
2023 eFG% – 10th
2022 FT/FGA – 20th
2023 FT/FGA – 2nd
Despite all the injuries this year, the Portland Trail Blazers are better to watch offensively than last year’s team. Last year, the Blazers saw 27 different players suit up for them, which included journeymen Dennis Smith Jr. and Tony Snell. Even with the trades and injuries this year, they’ve only seen 19 players suit up for them. Damian Lillard has played double the number of games compared to last year and is averaging over 30 points per game this year. Nested in that 30-points-per-game average was a 71-point game versus the Rockets. His game-high last year was 43, for reference. Dame isn’t the only difference-maker on offense this year, though. Anfernee Simons leaped offensively, and the addition to Jerami Grant gave the Blazers a certified iso-scoring forward, which they haven’t seen since LaMarcus Aldridge was on the team. Rookie Shaedon Sharpe has also emerged as a slashing guard that’s posted numerous dunk highlights. Offensively, this team is one of the best in the league.
2022 STL – 8th
2023 STL – 24th
2022 Defensive eFG% – 30th
2023 Defensive eFG% – 24th
2022 Defensive TO% – 10th
2023 Defensive TO % – 22nd
Losing noted defensive specialist Robert Covington and some surprising defensive ability in Dennis Smith Jr saw this team crater in their steals in 2023. If the Blazers started the season with Gary Payton II, they would have better stats this year. One other note is the team is a tad younger, with Shaedon Sharpe, Trendon Watford, and Anfernee Simons, all 23 and younger, all earning peak minutes throughout the year. Sharpe especially seems to get lost on defense, especially when it comes to switching on screens. There have been fewer attempts to steal, leading to the Blazers staying home on defense. It’s led to a better effective field goal percentage but fewer opportunities on the fast break. Regardless, the team was terrible on defense last year and worse this year. It’s looking up, though, with the acquisition of Matisse Thybulle, who’s made the all-defensive team in back-to-back years.
Most used 2022 lineup: Covington – Lillard – McCollum – Nurkic – Powell: This crew played 274 minutes together last year, half as much as the top played lineup this year. Compared to their other lineups, this was a middle-of-the-road, scoring five. They were also slightly better defensively, which should not be a surprise, with Robert Covington and Norman Powell switching between screens while Nurkic locked down the paint. As you remember, Covington and Powell were shipped to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Bledsoe (to be released before the 2023 season), Justice Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a 2025 second-round pick.
Most used 2023 lineup: Grant – Hart – Lillard – Nurkic – Simons: This lineup featured some intriguing offensive sets. With Josh Hart crashing the boards with Nurkic, it allowed Jerami Grant, Dame, and Simons to all leak out for three-point opportunities, which was necessary because of the swiss cheese defense played this year. Speaking of defense, in terms of steals, this was the worst lineup generating steals, although they played 539 minutes together. At the deadline, the Blazers shipped Hart away for Cam Reddish and Kevin Knox, amongst other players and picks.
It’s clear the issue that plagued the team in 2022 is still prevalent this year. That would be on the defensive end. If the Blazers want to make an effort this offseason, focus on the defensive first players. Instead of resigning Jerami Grant, grab Josh Richardson, Dwight Powell, or even Bruce Brown Jr. These are all players that can make a difference on defense. They did grab Thybulle, which will help a lot defensively, but it’s clear another defender is needed to compete in the Western Conference next year.