Four-Fifths Of Portland's Starting Lineup Makes ESPN's Top 100 Players
Last week, Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney at Sports Illustrated put together their list of the Top 100 players going into the 2018-19 season, a list that included four Trail Blazers. And now the folks at ESPN have finished up their Top 100, with the same four Trail Blazers making that list as well. What's more, the order of those four players is the same and the rankings are in the same general range on both lists, so if you're looking for a national consensus option regarding how four-fifths of Portland's starting lineup stacks up to the rest of the NBA, you've come to the right place.
Here's how the Trail Blazers came out on ESPN's Top 100.
• First up (literally) is Al-Farouq Aminu, who just makes the list at No. 100 after being unranked last year...
100. Al-Farouq Aminu
Previous rank: NR
2018-19 projected RPM wins: 3.4
Aminu will look to build on a strong showing in the first round of last season's NBA playoffs. After finishing with seven points in Game 1 against the New Orleans Pelicans, he averaged 20.7 points on 53 percent shooting and 9.7 rebounds over the final four games. -- Jose De Leon
Al-Farouq Aminu is directly ahead of whichever player ended up just outside of the Top 100 and directly behind Orlando guard Evan Fournier at No. 99.
• Next up, center Jusuf Nurkić, who comes in at No. 75, more than 30 spots worse thank his ranking at the start of the 2017-18 season...
75. Jusuf Nurkić
Previous rank: 44
Projected RPM wins: 2.7
Nurkic has flashed major potential during his 1.5 seasons with the Blazers. He has been pretty consistent with averages of 14.5 PPG (50.5 FG percentage), 9.2 RPG, 1.5 BPG and 0.9 SPG, but he has turned in great stretches late in both seasons that have corresponded with Portland's solidifying into one of the hottest teams in the league. If Nurkic can harness that level for a full season, he and his team both become very dangerous. -- Andre Snellings
Nurkić makes the ranking directly ahead of Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie at No. 75 and right behind Toronto guard Fred VanVleet at No. 74.
• Now onto the backcourt. First up, CJ McCollum, who slightly improved his ranking this season at No. 30...
30. CJ McCollum
Previous rank: 31
2018-19 projected RPM wins: 5.1
McCollum, an avid reader of NBArank, has finished between 26th and 31st all three years since winning Most Improved Player for his breakout 2015-16 campaign. McCollum's play hasn't been quite that consistent.After posting a career-best .585 true shooting percentage in 2016-17, he slipped to .536 last season, worse than league average (.556).
Yet McCollum was more efficient than ever in the playoffs, averaging 25.3 PPG and shooting 57 percent on 2s and 42 percent on 3s as the Blazers were swept by New Orleans. And he plays at perhaps the league's weakest position, adding to his value. -- Kevin Pelton
McCollum comes in just ahead of Phoenix guard Devin Booker at No. 31 and just behind Washington's Bradley Beale at No. 29.
• Last but not least, we come to Damian Lillard, who made a significant jump to No. 10 in this year's ranking after coming in at No. 18 at this time last year...
10. Damian Lillard
Previous rank: 18
Projected RPM wins: 7.9
Lillard -- coming off his debut All-NBA first-team selection last season -- is quietly one of the most potent offensive players in the league. He has turned in back-to-back seasons with combined averages of 27.0 points (44.2 FG%, 90.5 FT%), 6.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 3s per game, and he teams with CJ McCollum to provide the highest scoring average of any backcourt in the NBA.
Lillard led the Trail Blazers to the No. 3 seed in the West last season, and his quick-strike offense and big-game attitude give his squad a puncher's chance against any team on any given night. -- André Snellings
Lillard makes the Top 10 just ahead of Houston guard Chris Paul at No. 11 and is just behind Philadelphia center Joel Embiid at No. 9.