POWER RANKINGS » Blazers Take Their Lumps In Week 2
It was a tough week for the Portland Trail Blazers, especially those taller than 6-9.
While the 2019-20 Trail Blazers were always going to be a bit shorthanded at power forward and center with Jusuf Nurkić working his way back from a broken left leg, the hope was that Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins, Pau Gasol and Skal Labissiere could make due until the "Bosnian Beast" returns some time in 2020, but then Whiteside suffered a bone bruise in his left knee, it was announced that Collins would undergo surgery to repair a left shoulder injury and Gasol still hasn't been cleared for full contact after a procedure on his left foot at the end of last season. That left Portland with only one true "big man," Labissiere, in their 129-128 loss to Philadelphia Saturday night at the Moda Center. Not to mention that Rodney Hood leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a left quad contusion certainly didn't help the cause.
But while Collins joins Nurkic on the long term inactive list, both Whiteside and Hood are expected to return to the lineup for Monday night's game versus the Golden State Warriors, a team with more injury issues than any other in the NBA, in San Francisco. The going gets much tougher later in the week, with the Blazers visiting L.A. to face the Clippers, a team with ample size and talent, before returning home to host the Nets Friday night in the second game of a back-to-back.
Between mounting injuries and going 1-2, the Trail Blazers take a dip in most of this week's Power Rankings. They did see small bumps up on a few rankings, but one figures that's due to mistakes in their rankings last week more so than assumptions that they've improved.
• The panel of voters at ESPN have the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, four spots worse than last week...
Zach Collins' shoulder injury is a big one for the Blazers because interior depth was already a concern coming into the season. And the game against the 76ers highlighted that issue, as Portland struggled to find a workable front line against Al Horford and Tobias Harris. There's no timetable on Collins yet, but there was belief the Blazers were already going to look at frontcourt upgrades on the trade market, and that plan might accelerate now.
The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 13 and ahead of the Nets at No. 15.
• John Schumann at NBA.com also has the Trail Blazers at No. 14, a five-spot drop from last week...
Pace: 106.1 (8) OffRtg: 107.6 (11) DefRtg: 106.6 (17) NetRtg: +1.0 (15)
One reason the Sixers scored 84 points in the paint (without Embiid) on Saturday is that the Blazers didn't have much of a frontline, missing Jusuf Nurkic, Pau Gasol, Zach Collins (set to have shoulder surgery) and Hassan Whiteside (bone bruise in his left knee). Of course, the Blazers almost won the game because Damian Lillard scored 33 points on just 16 shots (and just three free throw attempts) and because his teammates shot 11-for-23 from 3-point range. They got a defensive win in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, but those kinds of games may be few and far between. Five of their six games have been within five points in the last five minutes and both the Blazers (16-for-31) and their opponents (17-for-33) have shot better than 50 percent in the clutch, though they missed all four of their 3-point attempts to tie in the final 30 seconds of their loss in San Antonio on Monday.
Schumann has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 13 and ahead of the Rockets at No. 15.
• Colin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 15, which, oddly enough, is actually one spot better than last week...
Portland has some big man issues with Zach Collins having shoulder surgery and Hassan Whiteside missing the team's loss to Philly with a banged up knee. That would have been a huge win for the Blazers, but they got Korked and fell to 3-3 on the season. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are doing what they always do, but the offense as a whole has been much worse than last season due to the injuries and new pieces.
Ward-Henninger has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 14 and ahead of the Rockets at No. 16.
• Zach Harper at The Athletic has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, three spots worse than last week...
The Blazers’s lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, Collins and Whiteside has been the second-best lineup in basketball (minimum 40 minutes played). The defense of this lineup was dominating. Teams couldn’t score on them and the lineup was only giving up 98.0 points per 100 possessions. Teams also couldn’t stop this lineup from scoring. It poured in a ridiculous 123.7 points per 100 possessions. That’s a net rating of +25.7 points per 100 possessions. Collins was hyper impressive defending in space on the perimeter and this injury is a blow, especially considering their big man depth right now. That said, never doubt the Blazers in the regular season to figure out their rotations.
Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 10 and ahead of the Timberwolves at No. 12.
• Grant Hughes at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, one spot worse than last week...
Hassan Whiteside missed the Sixers loss with a bruised knee, Rodney Hood suffered his own ugly knee-to-knee knock in the fourth quarter, and Zach Collins elected to have surgery on his dislocated left shoulder. Saturday's unusual starting five, which featured a frontcourt of Anthony Tolliver, Mario Hezonja and Hood, might be just the beginning of head coach Terry Stotts' search for a combination of usable healthy bodies.
Damian Lillard, who's led the Blazers in scoring and assists in all but one game this year, has some extra heavy lifting to do until this team gets over the injury bug.
Hughes has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 13 and ahead of the Rockets at No. 15.
• Phil Watson at Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 16, three spots better than last week's No. 19 ranking...
The Portland Trail Blazers are running out of bigs.
Entering the season with Jusuf Nurkic still on the shelf recovering from the leg fracture he sustained last March and Pau Gasol out with a foot injury, the Trail Blazers are now without Hassan Whiteside, who has a sore knee, while Zach Collins had surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder with no timetable set for his return.
The Blazers played three nail-biters last week, going 1-2, but Damian Lillard was still cooking. He scored 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting in the loss to the 76ers, going 8-for-11 from 3-point range with nine assists, but his seven turnovers did not help the cause.
Watson has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 15 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 17.
• The panel of voters at Hashtag Sports have the Trail Blazers at No. 15 this week, six spots worse than last week...
The Trail Blazers fell to the tenth seed after a close loss to the Dallas Mavericks; while it's obviously too early to lock them out of the playoffs, they do not want to be in a position where they need to make up ground in the Western Conference. They'll probably go on a 16-3 run in January/February to render this moot, but in the meantime, their frontcourt rotation is already a patchwork job with Zach Collins and Hassan Whiteside both out with injuries. CJ McCollum has struggled to score outside of their game against Dallas, especially inside the 3-point line--he'll need to pick things up to keep Portland in the playoff picture.
Obviously, Trail Blazers won that game versus the Mavericks, so one assumes they mean the loss the next night to the Spurs.
The folks at Hashtag Sports have the Trail Blazers behind the Rockets at No. 14 and ahead of the Hawks at No. 16.
• Michael Shapiro of the husk of Sports Illustrated has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, two spots worse than last week...
Is there any chance Damian Lillard pulls off a surprise MVP campaign? The numbers support such a case thus far. Lillard is scoring 29.8 points per game and banging home 40.7% of threes, keeping the Blazers afloat amid a slate of new rotational players. Portland’s record will likely fall short of landing Lillard in the MVP conversation, but the Weber State product deserves a mention among the league’s best players.
Shapiro has the Trail Blazers behind the Jazz at No. 13 and ahead of the Suns at No. 15.