The Portland Trail Blazers don’t have a lot of star power, but their rebuilding project has provided them with a strong core of young, productive players.
Thanks to the contributions of those players, Portland is off to its best start in nearly a decade.
The Blazers look to run their season-high win streak to six games and remain undefeated against teams from the Eastern Conference as they visit the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
Portland has only one player that’s been named to an All-Star team - Brandon Roy, who received the honor last season. Roy, though, is just a small part of a massive rebuilding project that has made the Blazers (13-6) one of the deepest teams in the NBA.
The Blazers have five players averaging at least 11.0 points per game, and each of those players was drafted in the past six years. The team is also second in the league in bench scoring with 37.5 points per contest.
The Blazers have used youth and depth to their advantage this season, producing their best 19-game start since they were 15-4 at this point in 1999-2000.
Five players - including reserves Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez - scored at least 15 points in Tuesday night’s 104-97 win over New York that gave Portland a 6-0 record against the East, its best start since it opened 12-0 in interconference play in 1990-91.
“When you’re playing nine, 10 guys, if we play the way we condition ourselves to, we should be able to wear down some teams,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said.
That appeared to be the case against the short-handed Knicks, who used just eight players, one of whom clocked only three minutes. Portland outscored New York 33-22 in the fourth quarter, and Blazers reserves outscored the Knicks’ bench 47-20.
The Wizards (3-12) have had their own injury problems, playing without starters Gilbert Arenas (knee) and Brendan Haywood (wrist) all season. However, those injury woes weren’t apparent Tuesday night, as three Washington players scored at least 20 points in a 108-88 victory over New Jersey.
Caron Butler had 22 points and 10 assists, Antawn Jamison added 22 points and eight boards and DeShawn Stevenson had a season-high 21 points as the Wizards shot 51.8 percent from the field in their first road win.
“We passed the ball well and shot it well as a team,” said Stevenson, who shot 7-for-13 overall and 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. “We shared the ball as a team and got open looks.”
That formula helped Washington improve to 2-2 under interim coach Ed Tapscott, who replaced the fired Eddie Jordan on Nov. 24 after the team’s dreadful 1-10 start.
The Wizards and Blazers split last season’s series, with the home team winning both games.
Roy has struggled in two career visits to Washington, totaling 19 points while making 4 of 16 shots.