The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the NBA’s best 5-man lineups

Portland Trail Blazers, Norman Powell (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers, Norman Powell (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

When the Portland Trail Blazers initially made the trade of Gary Trent Jr for Norman Powell, fans and some media questioned the move. Trent was having a great year offensively and playing tough defense. Also, he was a bit of a fan favorite.

But, Powell, along with the return from injury, and then to form of Jusuf Nurkic, has actually been a big part of unlocking the Blazers.

Per CleaningtheGlass, the Blazers lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Powell, Robert Covington, and Nurkic, has an excellent defensive rating of 103.6, which is 12 points per 100 possessions better than their overall season rating, and one of the best 25 percent when it comes defensive ratings in the league.

Offensively, this lineup isn’t blowing people away, but it’s still in the top third of the league.

When you add these two together, it comes to an impressive +13.4. This lineup is in the top 22 percent in the entire league, based on numbers post the win over the Utah Jazz.

Powell’s strong man defense combined with Covington’s great help instincts make these two a great forward combo. What has changed things offensively for the Blazers though, is Powell’s drive game. Trent was really only a jump shooter who didn’t threaten the basket much.

Powell is a 60 plus percent shooter at the rim, on some solid volume. His multi-faceted game means the Blazers have an inside and out presence on the court.

Nurkic’s return has been a massive boon for the Blazers, as he has significantly improved the defense with the above five-man lineup.

That the Blazers now have the 16th best defense in the league over the last two weeks shows the difference that Nurkic has made. His massive body around the rim and big hands have forced many turnovers while also providing an excellent box out and defensive rebounding presence.

Though the Blazers aren’t all of a sudden a good defensive team, hovering around league average, is a great mark for a team that has been near the bottom on that end for the whole season. 

Another part of the Blazers improvement on that end has been young Anfernee Simons showing some growth on the defensive end in the second unit. His man defense has been excellent over the last few months, while he has made fewer mistakes while in off-ball defense.

The Blazers now have two games left in the season to lock in their playoff seeding.

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