Blazers Ranked 11th Heading Into Training Camp

Four teams held media day and Friday, and began training camp today, meaning the 2010-11 NBA season has officially begun.  To highlight this occasion, Marc Stein has released his first round of NBA power rankings. No real surprises, the LA Lakers hauled in the number one ranking, which befits a team that finished the season as NBA champs.  Miami moved up from the 13th spot at the end of last season to number two. Stein points out that it may be a little premature to rank the Heat as the second best team in the league before they’ve even stepped onto the court, but you had to expect they would get at the very least a top four ranking.

Portland begins their campaign having fallen three spots, from eight to 11, and Stein has them behind division rivals Utah and Oklahoma City.

Stein’s breakdown for the Northwest division is as follows:

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Record 09-10: 50-32

End of Season Ranking: 11th

Current Ranking: 6th

Stein: Any fears Durant might struggle with lofty expectations were obliterated in Istanbul. But he’s going to need steady help to cement OKC as the No. 1 threat to L.A. out West. And I’m not completely sold KD’s crew is ready.

Utah Jazz:

Record 09-10: 53-29

End of Season Ranking: 5th

Current Ranking: 9th

Stein: You certainly have the latitude to ask if Big Al can produce for a winning team like he has for lottery-bound squads. Just make sure to tip your cap to the Jazz for responding to Boozer’s departure with more spending.

Portland Trail Blazers:

Record 09-10: 50-32

End of Season Ranking: 8th

Current Ranking: 11th

Stein: Seems cruel to point out that Oden has played in only 82 games in his first three seasons. But that’s where the conversation has to start (again) because Portland will be a different team if he can ever stay healthy.

Denver Nuggets:

Record 09-10: 53-29

End of Season Ranking: 9th

Current Ranking:  15th

Stein: The Nuggets finished fourth back in August in the Team Turmoil category when polled the whole 93-member staff back in August. Rest assured they’d be a near-unanimous No. 1 now thanks to their Melo drama.

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Record 09-10: 15-67

End of Season Ranking: 30th

Current Ranking: 30th

Stein: The Wolves did admit in a full-page newspaper ad that competing for a championship this season is on the unlikely side. What they didn’t say: It might be 2011 before they match K-Love’s 9-win summer with Team USA.

The fate of the Nuggets, and likely the fate of the Northwest Division, rests on whether or not Carmelo Anthony ends up as a Net, here’s the latest from Yahoo Sports on that matter. A third place ranking in the division isn’t great for Portland, but to be fair it is where the team ended up at the end of last season.

The second biggest question mark in the division after Melo is Al Jefferson. Can Big Al fit into the pick-and-roll system in Utah, and can he produce on a team that expects to win? Those are big questions that will likely be answered very early in 2010-11.

Of course these are pre pre-season rankings, based totally on speculation. The upside for the Blazers is that being relegated to third best in the division will give them something to shoot for and something to prove.

Where wil Portland finish in the Northwest division

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Tags: Power Rankings

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