The Portland Trail Blazers have fought to re-enter play-in contention with little success, but have seen standout individual seasons from a big-three of Damian Lillard, Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons. All three were listed in The Ringers’ latest top 125 player rankings.
Lillard came in at No. 9, followed by Grant at No. 55 and Simons at No. 63. A brief synopsis was given for each player:
“[Lillard]: Bucket-getting clutch master who is intent on wringing every drop out of his time with the team that drafted him.
[Grant]: Tremendous defender and a high-end second or third option on offense capable of stepping up when needed.
[Simons]: Athletic spark plug whose ability to take and make difficult shots is exactly what any offense should want.”
There were more detailed summaries for the Blazers’ vanguards, yet the quick-hitting headlines were spot-on.
Lillard has been a ‘bucket-getting clutch master’ throughout his career, and that has not stopped this season. Lillard is No. 20 in clutch time points per game (3.3) and his impact late in games goes well beyond the stats. The Weber State product has also made good on ‘wringing every last drop’ out of his tenure with the Blazers, as he’s averaging a career-high 32.1 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting from the floor.
Lillard ranked ahead of Los Angeles Lakers legend LeBron James (No. 10) and Memphis Grizzlies showstopper Ja Morant (No. 15). Ahead of Lillard is Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard (No. 8), who has missed 28 games and is having his worst statistical season since 2015-16, save his nine-game 2017-18 campaign.
Grant and Simons were also shown love. Grant has made good on being a two-way producer and ‘high-end second or third option.’ He’s cracked the 40 percent threshold in three-point shooting en route to his second 20-plus point per game season of his career.
Simons has shown the ability to make tough shots, especially early in the season where his last name was synonymous with third quarter flurries.
All three Blazers are in hot pursuit of the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference and will have to play up to their rankings in order to race against the clock and rise in the standings.