Three Portland Trail Blazers were featured in this week’s updated version of The Ringer’s Top 100 NBA Player Rankings. The three names were, of course, Damian Lillard, Jerami Grant, and Anfernee Simons. Also updated today was Tyler Parker’s League Pass Player Rankings, which saw a mention for the Blazers’ high flying rookie Shaedon Sharpe.
Lillard didn’t change from his previous ranking of 18 from the last installment on The Ringer’s list. His shot-making and offensive play were lauded by Kyle Mann.
Bucket-getting clutch master who is intent on wringing every drop out of his time with the team that drafted him.
Dame’s stone-faced shot making is the stuff of legend, but conversations about Lillard now focus mostly on how long Dame Time will last in Portland.
Lillard missed most of the 2021-22 season with an abdominal strain, and the Trail Blazers responded by overhauling the roster, including trading longtime backcourt partner CJ McCollum. But instead of angling his way out of town, Lillard doubled down, signing an extension that could keep him in Portland through the 2026-27 season.
It’s a hard-knock life for heavy-usage guards as they age into their early-to-mid 30s. Athletic tools tend to dip, and easy offense gets difficult to generate. Life just gets a bit harder. But Lillard has shown this season, even as he fights through more injuries, that he can still play at a level reminiscent of his best years. The game moves slowly for him. His physicality and technique for creating shots could have him aging gracefully, minus a few injuries that could nickel-and-dime him.
But what’s the endgame? Lillard is a folk hero in the Pacific Northwest, but how grumpy will Portland fans get when the Blazers are paying Lillard $63 million at age 36? —J. Kyle Mann
Jerami Grant came in at number 40, up five spots from his previous rank of 45. Kevin O’Connor highlighted Grant’s defense and how important that is to Portland.
Tremendous defender and a high-end second or third option on offense capable of stepping up when needed.
For years, Damian Lillard’s best teammates at the forward or wing positions were journeymen like Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, and Al-Farouq Aminu. Grant is in an entirely different stratosphere; he’s capable of excelling in any scheme, whether it’s playing next to a center or as a small-ball 5 himself. And on nights when Lillard is drawing doubles, Grant has turned himself into an offensive threat. It took a long time to get here, but a hybrid role with the Blazers has Grant playing the best basketball of his life. —Kevin O’Connor
Anfernee Simons was the final Blazer ranked on the top 100 list. He improved by two spots from his previous ranking, now sitting at 57. Michael Pina talked about the amazing offense that Simons contributes every night for the Blazers.
Athletic spark plug whose ability to take and make difficult shots is exactly what any offense should want.
Anyone who can effortlessly drill a high percentage of 3s and win a slam dunk contest deserves attention. Throw in a nifty in-between game, a nasty layup package, and the ability to go unconscious and blow a game wide open, and actual stardom may be on the horizon.
Simons, who skipped college for a postgrad year at IMG Academy, was initially thought of as a high-variance draft pick, a player who could either elevate a franchise or bust quickly. Now in his fifth season, he’s still only 23—a.k.a., two years younger than Pacers sophomore Chris Duarte—with a ton of potential, given his tantalizing hops and touch.
Simons comes in just above Indiana Pacers center Miles Turner and just below Chicago Bulls guard Zach Lavine.
Shaedon Sharpe rounded out Tyler Parker’s top 20 league pass players due to his gravity defying plays above the rim on a seemingly nightly basis.
The seventh overall pick in last year’s draft, Sharpe is a generational leaper with all-caps, underlined BUNNIES. Rabid, mutant, hallucinogenic, rocket-fueled BUNNIES. He leaves the ground with style and force and ease and drops hammers. The putbacks are ungodly. Stuff that makes you stand and scream. Not words, but sounds. Some of the highlights are an affront to gravity itself.