It was no secret that the Portland Trail Blazers struggled defensively last season. Head coach Terry Stotts himself said it was their Achilles’ heel, per Jay Allen of Rip City Radio 620. They finished a disappointing 21st in defensive efficiency as they were plagued by inconsistent performances on that side of the ball.

Blazers star Damian Lillard said his team was humbled by that inconsistent play on defense last year, but is confident they’re improving just in time for the regular season.

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To the Blazers’ credit, they did see a stark improvement on their defense after the All-Star break, which saw the addition of big man Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers ranked 10th in defensive efficiency over the last 26 games of the year, a big factor in them finishing 18-8 and reaching the playoffs.

After showing they’re capable of reaching that high level defensively, the challenge now for Lillard, Stotts and the rest of the Blazers team will be to build upon that strong finish and maintain more consistency throughout the season.

It will be easier said than done, but having the mindset to improve is still a step toward the right direction. A full season of Nurkic should also help, and while they may not finish in the top 10 again, even hitting league average would be considered progress in Portland.