The Trail Blazers erased a four-game slide with a three-game winning streak prior to the All-Star break. That shift in the standings was reflected in the latest round of power rankings on Monday.
In ESPN’s updated rankings, the Blazers moved up from No. 10 to No. 8. ESPN’s analysis focused on what Portland could achieve once CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic return in the lineup.
As the Blazers get whole again with the returns of CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, is that enough to vault them into the upper tier of the West? They have stayed afloat — and then some — behind the crunch-time brilliance of Damian Lillard and the contributions of quality role players like Enes Kanter, Carmelo Anthony and Robert Covington. But when the Blazers are at full strength, they are deep and have a backcourt tandem that can stack up against anyone.
The Ringer kept the Blazers at No. 14. Enes Kanter took center stage in Kevin O’Connor’s look at the Blazers.
Enes Kanter has filled in nicely in the 23 games since center Jusuf Nurkic was sidelined by a broken wrist in mid-January, averaging 12.9 points and 13.4 rebounds while playing high-effort defense as a starter. One of his best moments of the season came in the closing moments of Portland’s final win over the first half of the season. Trailing Sacramento 108-105 late in the fourth, Kanter played a huge role in four straight defensive stops.
Bleacher Report’s Mo Dakhil moved the Blazers up from No. 12 to No. 10. Dakhil focused on Lillard’s late-game heroics in his assessment of Portland’s position.
Of course, Damian Lillard has been amazing throughout. He has shined during Dame Time, and his 3.8 points per game in contests featuring a three-point difference within the final three minutes lead the league. He’s shooting 63.6 percent from three during those situations, too. It came in handy as he hit the go-ahead three against the Golden State Warriors last week.
The Blazers return to action on Thursday to face the Suns. Following that matchup, the Blazers finish the week with a two-game series against the Timberwolves.