Power Rankings: Lillard's Big Week Results In Minor Movement

by Casey Holdahl
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The NBA announced Monday morning that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for Week 14 after averaging 29.3 points on 53 percent shooting from the field, 52 percent shooting from three and 100 percent shooting from the free throw line, 5.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists in three games last week. Portland won all three of those contests, which surely went a long way toward the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State collecting the fourth Player of the Week honor of his career.

That 3-0 record also helped the Trail Blazers move up in most of the power rankings this week, though that wasn't the case across the board, and considering how inconsistent they've been all season, it's hard to argue too much with those who weren't especially impressed with their performance last week. If Portland is able to extend their current win streak -- they've yet to win more than three games in a row this season -- perhaps they'll see some real movement in the rankings come next week. But until that happens, they're going to remain somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Onto this week's rankings...

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, one spot better than last week...

Will Damian Lillard make the All-Star team this week? He already has two seasons in which he averaged at least 25 points per game without receiving an All-Star nod. Should he do it again, Lillard would be the only player in NBA history with three such seasons to his name. His career scoring average is the highest ever by a player with two or fewer All-Star selections.

We shall see, though winning Western Conference Player of the Week honors as the coaches are filling out their reserve ballots certainly couldn't hurt his cause.

ESPN has the Trail Blazers behind the Heat at No. 9 and ahead of the Wizards at No. 11.

• John Schuhmann of NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at lucky No. 13 this week, four spots better than last week, which was the biggest jump for any team in his rankings...

Pace: 98.9 (16) OffRtg: 104.5 (16) DefRtg: 104.1 (7) NetRtg: +0.4 (13)

The Blazers continue to take advantage of the easiest January schedule in regard to the quality of opposing defenses. They rank third offensively this month (112 points scored per 100 possessions), with seven of their 11 January games having been against the league's bottom-10 defenses. Jusuf Nurkic has benefited the most (shooting 53 percent over the 11 games, up from 45 percent through December) and he's benefited mostly by getting more shots near the basket. After taking just 47 percent of his shots in the restricted area through December, he's taken 57 percent of his shots from the restricted area in January. He's not exactly DeAndre Jordan when it comes to finishing at the rim, but he ranks 64th in mid-range field goal percentage (35.5 percent) among 72 players with at least 100 mid-range attempts, so the Blazers have to get him shots closer to the basket.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Pelicans at No. 12 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 14.

• David Aldridge, also of NBA.com, has the Trail Blazers just making it into his rankings this week at No. 15 after being unranked last week (Aldridge only ranks the Top 15 teams) ...

They look like they’ve finally figured out their issues at Moda Center: after starting 8-10 at home, they’ve won five straight there, including a win over the Spurs.

Six straight now after Saturday's win versus the Mavericks at the Moda.

Aldridge has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers, a team Portland swept this season, at No. 14.

• The panel of voters at USA Today has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, seven spots better than last week..

Can the Blazers, looking to put together their first four-game winning streak of the season on Monday against Denver, ever overcome their inconsistencies? They've followed up each of their three three-game winning streaks this season with a losing streak of at least three games.

Interesting note there. Portland should have a decent chance to break that habit Monday night versus the Nuggets, a team that has lost their last two games and six of their last eight.

The folks at USA Today have the Trail Blazers behind the Cavaliers at No. 10 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 12.

• Chris Barnewall of CBSSports.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, two spots worse than last week despite going 3-0...

Portland feels kind of stuck right now with the Feb. 8 trade deadline coming up. They could use some cap relief to make moves in the future, but teams are running out of the money needed to make that happen. It will be interesting to see if they make a move.

This probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who follows the Blazers closely, but while they could get under the luxury tax this season, the prospect of getting under the salary cap, let alone far enough under to have real money to offer free agents this summer, is incredibly unlikely.

Barnewall has the Trail Blazers behind the Wizards at No. 13 and ahead of the Bucks at No. 15.

• Marc Stein of The New York Times ranked teams at the midseason point with the Trail Blazers coming in at No. 13...

The West features only four teams on a 50-win pace entering the second half, which gives the Blazers a real shot to finish as high as fifth despite the fact that, as constructed, they appear to have a limited ceiling. Portland continues to lack a dependable third scoring option in support of Damian Lillard and C. J. McCollum and still has holes in the frontcourt after the initial success Jusuf Nurkic found when he joined the Blazers.

Stein has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 12 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 14.

• Kenny Ducey at SI.com, in rankings posted on January 15, has the Trail Blazers at No. 12, one spot better than last week.

• Tommy Beer of Rotoworld has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week...

The Blazers took advantage of three winnable home games last week by registering three victories. Over those three games, Damian Lillard averaged 29.3 points, 8.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 treys, while shooting a scorching 52.7 percent from the floor, 52.0 percent from 3-point territory and 100 percent (17-of-17) from the free-throw stripe.

Beer has the Trail Blazers behind the Wizards at No. 10 and ahead of the 76ers at No. 12.

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