Power Rankings: In The Middle At The Midway Point

by Casey Holdahl
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You may have noticed (though probably not) that there was no New Year's edition of Power Rankings last week. Between a lot of the regular rankers taking the week off because of the holiday and the Trail Blazers playing a road back-to-back, it just didn't make much sense to put together what few rankings were available. Hopefully the absence didn't ruin your first week of the new year.

But now that things have settled down, let's get right back it. After going 3-1 last week, the Trail Blazers find themselves generally just above average in terms of their ranking at the midway point of the NBA season. And considering they currently are tied with the Bucks and Pistons for the 11th-best record in the league at 21-18, it's hard to argue they should be much higher, or much lower for that matter.

Onto this week's rankings...

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, one spot better than last week...

C.J. McCollum's jumper with 5 seconds remaining gave the Blazers a 111-110 victory over the Spurs on Sunday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, San Antonio had won 143 of its previous 144 games regulation games in which it scored at least 110 points, dating back to March 2011.

ESPN has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 11 and ahead of the Pistons at No. 13.

• John Schuhmann at NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, a two spot improvement from last week...

Record: 21-18
Pace: 98.9 (17) OffRtg: 103.1 (24) DefRtg: 102.8 (4) NetRtg: +0.3 (15)

C.J. McCollum is having the worst shooting season of his career on his bread-and-butter shots, shooting 41 percent on non-restricted-area paint shots, down from 47 percent over his first four seasons. But those remain his bread and butter, and the game-winner in Chicago on Monday and the game-winner against San Antonio on Sunday were remarkably similar, off-balance runners in traffic. The Blazers have won five of their last seven games, even though Damian Lillard has played in just two of the seven, because their offense has come alive and they've survived four straight close finishes. After beating the Spurs at home, they now embark on a trip where they'll face four more West playoff teams, the toughest week they have left on the schedule.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 13 and ahead of the Pelicans at No. 15.

• David Aldridge, also of NBA.com, has the Trail Blazers at No. 13 this week, unchanged from last week...

Tough road trip this week: at OKC, at Houston, at New Orleans, at Minnesota.

Aldridge has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 12 and ahead of the Heat at No. 14.

• Kenny Ducey of SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, up three spots from last week...

Shabazz Napier looks like a real point guard out there; he seems to be in control at all times, he’s setting his teammates up with great passes and he’s scoring the basketball. The Blazers will have to find a way to get him on the court a little more when Damian Lillard returns. Perhaps his emergence will help keep Dame fresh for the postseason.

Ducey has the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 10 and ahead of the Thunder at No. 12.

• Chris Barnewall at CBSSports.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, four spots better than last week...

With Damian Lillard out, the Blazers have been looking to Shabazz Napier to carry the load in his place. Obviously, Napier doesn't pack the same scoring punch, but he has gone from someone that might be out of the NBA to one of the better backup point guards in a hurry.

Barnewall has the Trail Blazers behind the Thunder at No. 9 and ahead of the Bucks at No. 11.

• The panel of voters at USA Today has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, a two spot drop despite going 3-1 last week...

Shabazz Napier has been stellar while filling in as a starter for Damian Lillard, averaging 18.2 points, 5.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds and two steals in five games, four of which were wins.

USA Today has the Trail Blazers behind the Pistons at No. 13 and ahead of the 76ers at No. 15.

• Gerald Bourguet of Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, one spot better than last week...

Nice bounce-back week at home for the Portland Trail Blazers, who pounded Atlanta and eked out a one-point win over San Antonio thanks to C.J. McCollum‘s game-winner.

Those two wins have the Blazers back to an even .500 in Rip City. With 10 of their next 15 games on the road, it’ll be imperative for Portland to make the most of its limited home games in January.

Bourguet has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 11 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 13.