Regardless of the significant losses in the injury column, the Trail Blazers reeled off a 3-1 record last week. Fueled by superb performances from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers—for the most part—advanced in a fresh batch of NBA power rankings.
ESPN’s latest rankings did not feature a change in position for the Blazers. Portland landed at No. 12 in their rankings, again. ESPN’s Royce Young explained that Lillard is tasked with keeping the Blazers afloat in the weeks ahead.
Another season brings another adverse situation the Blazers must endure. Jusuf Nurkic will be out at least eight weeks because of a broken wrist, thinning the team’s front line and putting even more pressure on its backcourt. Portland dodged more problems with CJ McCollum’s foot injury only being a strain, but he could miss some time, as well. So as it goes for the Blazers: It just means Damian Lillard will have to do some carrying.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor moved the Blazers up from No. 17 to No. 14 in his latest rankings. O’Connor highlighted that the Jusuf Nurkic’s extended absence could contain a silver lining.
It could be useful for the Blazers to learn how to play without Nurk. We have already seen Robert Covington play some 5, much like he did in Houston. The results have been mixed, but Covington’s best defensive position is as a 4 or 5 so he can be a nuisance rotating off the ball. Portland needs Nurkic back and in good condition in time for the playoffs, but the Blazers can use this time to grow other areas of their game.
CBS Sports’ new rankings moved the Blazers up four spots to No. 10. Contributor Colin Ward-Henninger, when discussing the Blazers’ spot, predicted that Lillard is poised to produce big numbers in the upcoming stretch of games.
A 3-1 week for the Blazers was hampered by injuries, as Jusuf Nurkic is expected to miss two months with a broken wrist and CJ McCollum is out indefinitely with a sprained left foot. Enes Kanter helped beat the Hawks on Saturday with 12 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, but stayed on brand defensively by allowing Clint Capela to rack up 25 points and 15 rebounds. Damian Lillard averaged 30 points for the week, and that should be the norm as long as McCollum is out.
You can read the complete rankings from each outlet by utilizing the links listed above.