Thanks to a 2-1 week and a blowout victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trail Blazers held their place inside the top 10 of the latest batch of NBA power rankings. From Norman Powell’s arrival to Jusuf Nurkic’s return, the Lillard-led Blazers earned solid marks from most pundits.
ESPN’s latest rankings kept the Blazers at No. 9. Contributor Royce Young highlighted Portland’s upcoming schedule in Monday’s update.
With CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic back, plus the acquisition of Norman Powell, the Blazers seem to be rolling. They’ve won five of six and just stomped the Thunder by 48 on Saturday. But there’s some context: Those five wins were against rebuilding teams. In their past three games against playoff teams (Brooklyn, Dallas and Milwaukee), the Blazers lost by an average of 20.6 points. With games against the Clippers and Jazz this week, the Blazers have a chance to measure their retooled roster.
Bleacher Report’s Mo Dakhil also placed the Blazers at No. 9. Dakhil pointed to Portland’s penchant for close finishes.
Of the Blazers’ 30 wins this season, 16 have come with a three-point differential with three minutes left. It helps that Damian Lillard is on Portland’s side. Those close games are when Lillard turns into a superhero. He is shooting 61.3 percent and has yet to miss a free throw during “Dame Time.”
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor moved the Blazers up five spots to No. 9 in his latest rankings. O’Connor looked to McCollum’s return during his analysis of Portland’s placement.
McCollum admitted earlier in the season that he’s still regaining his explosiveness after suffering a back injury last year. At some point, it would be great to see him get to the basket more often so it can be a consistent, easier source of offense. But he’s also made a point to take more 3s instead of deep 2s, and that’s leading to the most efficient scoring season of his career. The Blazers are winning despite not being able to stop anybody. McCollum’s play is one of the reasons.
The Blazers face the Clippers, Jazz, Pistons and Heat this week.