Following a 3-1 week, the Trail Blazers made steady gains in the latest round of NBA power rankings. Regardless of Sunday’s 40-point loss to the Mavericks, Damian Lillard and the Blazers carved out a spot inside the top 10 of several lists.
ESPN’s latest rankings kept the Blazers at No. 9. Contributor Royce Young highlighted the importance of CJ McCollum’s return inside the list.
The Blazers are close to being whole again after CJ McCollum returned last week. It’s a process in getting him all the way back, though, with reduced minutes and return-to-play management. But he showed all the signs the Blazers need with 32 points against the Mavs on Friday. Damian Lillard has shouldered so much of the load to this point that there’s concern about late-season fatigue, especially as the schedule crunches. With McCollum, and possibly some of the more developed role players, that burden will be eased.
The Athletic’s Zach Harper moved the Blazers up four spots to No. 8. Harper touched on Carmelo Anthony’s improved production inside the rankings.
The Portland Trail Blazers are mostly a success story this season despite missing key members for most of the season. Despite not having CJ McCollum for a long stretch, as well as big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, the Blazers have been thriving. Damian Lillard is obviously the show here, but this team is also benefitting from an Anthony resurgence. I know we thought we got that in full last season, but he actually dipped quite a bit to start this campaign. Melo was under 40 percent from the field through January. But over the last 10 games, we’ve seen him be the big-time scorer we’ve known for years. He’s been their second-leading scorer (17.0) and hitting shots with 47.6/39.6/90.6 shooting splits. That’s exactly what they need out of him the rest of the way.
Finally, Bleacher Report’s Mo Dakhil moved the Blazers up to No. 9. Dakhil credited McCollum’s return for Portland’s ascension.
In the first game of the Dallas miniseries, it was another high-scoring game. Lillard went for 31 points in their 125-119 win, but more importantly CJ McCollum got going. He dropped 32 points in his third game back from a broken foot.
Getting McCollum back and going 3-1 in the last week is why the Blazers moved back into the top 10.
The Blazers start this week with a home matchup against the Nets on Tuesday. After that, they will finish up with three Florida-based road matchups against the Heat, Magic and Raptors.