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Blazers have gone from below average to top-five defense in one year

Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers made a lot of noise during the offseason about wanting to improve their inconsistent defense. It’s now a quarter of the way into the season and they seem to be backing up all their talk in a big way with their significant improvement on that end of the court.

The Blazers are currently third in the league in defensive rating per NBA.com, above defensive stalwarts in the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors.

That’s a marked improvement from their ranking of 21st last season, and is all the more astounding considering they basically have the same personnel that they had last year. The only noticeable difference has been the removal of Allen Crabbe from the rotation.

On the flipside, the Blazers’ offense has not nearly been as efficient as in past years. From 11th last year, they are down to just 20th this campaign. The absence of Crabbe’s shooting has likely played at least some role in their decline.

However, their added defensive mettle has more than made up for their dip in offense. They have now won seven of their last nine games and are currently fourth in the West at 13-8.

Only time will tell whether the Blazers, who are now starting Pat Connaughton at small forward, can remain this locked on defensively. The early returns are promising, though, and if the defense holds firm, it could be the main factor that gets them back to the top four in the conference.