In case you haven’t heard (which is highly unlikely if you’ve been anywhere near this website), Damian Lillard has been on a tear lately for the Portland Trail Blazers. Last week he averaged 52.6 points per game (!) to ensure the Blazers would go 2-1, keeping playoff hopes alive for a little longer. How did Lillard’s impressive week affect Portland’s power ranking? Let’s take a look.
Royce Young of ESPN has the Blazers 19th, giving props to Lillard for not letting Portland wither down and die.
Damian Lillard is not one to ever go quietly, and he’s not about to stand idle as the Blazers’ season slips away. In the past week, he dropped a career-high 61, followed it up with 47, then put 50 on the Pacers (plus 13 assists). Portland won two of those three games and has gotten back within shouting distance of the West’s 8-seed. Plus, CJ McCollum is back from a sprained ankle. Lillard was asked about the Blazers’ bad season and if that’s got him thinking differently about his future and he put it simply: “I can weather the storm.” Or maybe he just decided to be one.
Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report also made known how amazing Lillard has been, but still has Portland ranked 19th thanks to atrocious defense.
Whatever disappointment you attach to this Blazers season, headed for the lottery after last year’s Western Conference Finals appearance, none of it belongs on Damian Lillard.
During Monday’s win over the Warriors, Lillard scored 61 points and drilled 11 threes, a first in NBA history, continuing an individual campaign that isn’t getting nearly enough attention. He’s never averaged more points or posted a higher true shooting percentage in a career that already features four All-NBA nods.
He’s nearly leading the league in minutes played, a testament to his durability and commitment but also a clear sign of how little the Blazers have supporting him.
In Thursday’s dispiriting loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Lillard seemed particularly driven to turn his team’s season around, pulling up from especially deep several times. He finished that defeat with 47 points on 16-of-28 shooting. But as has been the case so often, Portland’s defense let him down.
At least his 50 points got the Blazers past the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, 139-129.
The Blazers rank 28th in points allowed per possession since the calendar flipped. Even Lillard can’t score enough to offset a defense that bad.
CBS Sports’ Colin Ward-Henniger has the Blazers, writing that moving Kent Bazemore shouldn’t be the final move for this Blazers team with Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic returning eventually.
Hassan Whiteside: The Blazers already dealt their most likely player to be traded — Kent Bazemore — so that leaves Whiteside and his $27M expiring contract. Assuming Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are on track to come back healthy, the Blazers should at least explore what kind of return they could get for Whiteside, who has put up huge numbers despite the team’s struggles.
The Blazers take the court again on Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT against the Houston Rockets.