POWER RANKINGS » Could Have Been Worse In Week 17

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

To be honest, it could have been worse. After going 1-2 last week, and with the losses to the Clippers and Jazz not being especially close, it's a bit surprising to see the Trail Blazers didn't tumble too far in this week's Power Rankings.

However, with losses to the Heat and Celtics already this week, if Portland isn't able to get both games on an upcoming trip to San Antonio and Charlotte, they'll likely find themselves further down the list. And much more importantly, after spending the last few months either in fifth or sixth in the West, if they're not able to starting winning games versus teams better than .500, they'll end up dropping down the standings and into the playoff play-in. Not a place they want to be. 

Here's how the Trail Blazers came out in the Week 17 Power Rankings... 

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

After carrying the team for two months, the burden might be catching up to Damian Lillard. In six April games, Lillard is averaging just 20.1 points on 38.3% shooting -- and the Blazers are 2-4, with wins over Detroit and OKC. They are finally healthy, and deadline addition Norman Powell is playing well. All signs pointed to them hitting a stride, but they go as Lillard goes, and until he finds his second wind, neither will the Blazers.

The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 9 and ahead of the Heat at No. 11. 

• John Schuhmann at NBA.com has Portland at No. 11 this week, a two-spot drop from last week...

If the Blazers hold onto a top-six seed in the West, they’ll have earned it, given the strength of their remaining schedule. Starting with their loss to the Heat on Sunday, they’re playing 15 of their final 20 games against teams that are currently over .500, with seven of those 15 against the group of eight teams better than the Blazers themselves.

With their losses to the Clippers and Jazz last week, the Blazers are 3-11 (0-8 since mid-February) against those top eight teams, having allowed more than 121 points per 100 possessions over the 14 games. The loss to the Heat dropped them to 5-2 against the other six teams with winning records, having yet to play the Celtics (who they’ll host on Tuesday) or the Grizzlies (who they’ll play three times in the span of six days later this month).

Since the Norman Powell addition, the Blazers have outscored their opponents by 15.4 points per 100 possessions in 157 total minutes with their four perimeter starters on the floor with either Jusuf Nurkic (who’s minutes have been limited) or Enes Kanter. But they’ve had issues otherwise. The on-court numbers for Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Jones Jr. are the worst among Portland’s two-man combos that have played at least 300 minutes and don’t include guys that were traded, and the pairing was a -12 (in less than 10 minutes) in a game the Blazers lost by nine points on Sunday.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 10 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 12. 

• Colin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers down to No. 13 this week, a four-spot drop since last week...

Damian Lillard expressed his frustration at his team's inability to beat the league's top teams, and it's understandable. The Blazers lost to three of them this week -- the Clippers, Jazz and Heat -- and their only win came against the lowly Pistons without their best player. Enes Kanter pulled down a franchise-record 30 rebounds to go with 24 points in the win over Detroit, but that was the lone bright spot in a sobering week for the Blazers.

Ward-Henninger has Portland between the Hawks at No. 12 and the Hornets at No. 14. 

• Mo Dakhil at Bleacher Report also has the Trail Blazers at No. 13, which is four spots worse in his rankings as well...

It was a rough week for the team in the Pacific Northwest. The Blazers went 1-3 and they were not even close in their defeats, losing by an average of 15 points. Their hold on the sixth seed is slipping with Dallas now just 1 ½ games behind.

The Blazers struggled with their shot from deep last week, shooting just 32.4 from three. They went as their star went as Damian Lillard had an off week not just from three but from the field, shooting just 33.8 percent. Teams have continued to constantly throw double-teams at him while daring other Blazers to beat them.

Portland will need to find ways to get its supporting cast going. More importantly, the Blazers need to figure out how to get Lillard cleaner looks against aggressive defenses.

Dakhil has Portland behind Boston at No. 12 and ahead of the Hornets at No. 14. 

• Zach Harper at The Athletic has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, two spots down from last week...

Good lineup: Damian Lillard | CJ McCollum | Norman Powell | Robert Covington | Jusuf Nurkic

Stats: 115.0 offensive rating | 103.2 defensive rating | +11.8 net rating | 87 minutes played | 4th most used lineup

Why it’s important: Thanks to some injuries for the Portland Trail Blazers this season, we’ve already seen their lineup with the newly acquired Norman Powell clock in as the fourth most used five-man combination for the Blazers this season. And the good news is that it’s been wildly successful. The Blazers are defending with this lineup, which is something most of their lineups haven’t done all season. Even if it’s half as good defensively as it has been, that’s a massive upgrade for Portland moving forward.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Hawks at No 11 and ahead of the Celtics at No. 13. 

• Finally, Corey Rausch at Hoops Habit is the only ranker this week with the COURAGE to keep the Trail Blazers in the Top 10, putting them at No. 9 this week, one spot worse than last week...

Can there be an x-factor more important for the Portland Trail Blazers greater than Damian Lillard? He is averaging 29.0 points, 7.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game and is one of the most clutch players in the league. As the roster remains in flux around him due to injuries, he continues to put the Blazers on his back in route to another playoff berth.

The beauty of the roster is that the variability of the rest of the contributors is nearly impossible to predict. Some nights it will be Enes Kanter, who grabbed a franchise-record 30 rebounds Saturday night against the Detroit Pistons. Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons show flashes of the role players they hope to be. CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Norman Powell are impressive offensive co-stars, each primed to go off on a nightly basis.

Lillard is the one true constant. He has missed just two games this season and appears determined to lead the Blazers on another playoff run. The road will not be easy, considering they currently rank sixth in the Western Conference. However, if the standings hold that would give them a first-round date with the LA Clippers. Remembering the end to last season, this could be the perfect time for Dame Time.

Rausch has the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 8 and ahead of the Hawks at No. 10. 


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