POWER RANKINGS » Moving To The Top In Week 4

by Casey Holdahl
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Other than losing to the Los Angeles Lakers, at home no less, for the first time in almost five years, last week was a rather good one for the Portland Trail Blazers. They finished off their first extended road trip of the season with wins versus the Pacers and Rockets before returning to the Moda Center to defeat the Pelicans in their first meeting since the 2018 postseason before falling to the Lakers Saturday night.

While the Trail Blazers have caught a couple teams at the right time, playing the Rockets without James Harden and the Pelicans without Anthony Davis, they also have the most difficult schedule in the league before the new year, so catching a couple breaks only seems fair.

So after a 3-1 week, there's quite a bit of consensus regarding where the Trail Blazers come out in this week's Power Rankings...

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, two spots better than last week...

The Blazers are quietly winning at a high rate thanks in large part to a high-octane offense. Oddly, CJ McCollum's scoring has dipped during this start, as he is averaging 19.2 points per game while shooting 42 percent from the field. McCollum has averaged at least 20 points and a 44 percent shooting average per game in each of the previous three seasons.

ESPN has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 6 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 8.

• John Schuhmann at NBA.com also has the Trail Blazers at No. 7, which is a five-spot improvement over last week...

Pace: 102.1 (15) OffRtg: 113.5 (5) DefRtg: 104.6 (5) NetRtg: +8.9 (4)

The Blazers went 4-1 in their five-game week, holding their opponents to just 97 points per 100 possessions, but losing to the Lakers on Saturday by missing 29 of their 35 3-point attempts. That was a rare game where their bench let them down, but it recovered 24 hours later, pushing them to an easy win over Minnesota (with Meyers Leonard playing a season-high 22 minutes). Evan Turner still can't shoot 3-pointers, but is one of 11 players who has averaged at least 12 points, six rebounds and six assists per 36 minutes, and the Blazers have scored 115.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor with Damian Lillard and/or C.J. McCollum.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 6 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 8.

• Khadrice Rollins at SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 6 this week, a full six spots better than last week...

Damian Lillard is doing everything in his power to convince the world he is a top-five player in this league, but his scoring still took a slight dip in the Trail Blazers’ victories as the team's role players continued to dominate. Zach Collins scored 17 points against the Pacers and then Jusuf Nurkic dropped 22 and 10 in Houston and 20 and nine at home against the Pelicans. Meyers Leonard chipped in 15 and 12 in Sunday’s victory over the Timberwolves as Nurkic led the way with 19 points.

Rollins has the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 5 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 7.

• Reid Forgrave at CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, three spots better than last week...

The Blazers' schedule the first month of the season has been -- and will continue to be for another week -- unforgiving. And yet they've weathered it incredibly well. The impact of Zach Collins on this team cannot be overstated. This might be the best version of the Blazers since LaMarcus Aldridge left.

Forgrave has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 6 and ahead of the Rockets at No. 8.

• Zach Harper of The Athletic has the Trail Blazers at No. 6 this week, one spot better than last week...

Look, we could sit here and talk about the early dominance of Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. We would have a phenomenal discussion about where their ceiling hits and whether or not they can bust through that ceiling. We could talk about the importance of patience and continuity within the construct of NBA basketball. Measuring what this team looks like at full strength and everything clipping could excite a lot of people, but also fascinate them.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 5 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 7.

• Grant Hughes at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, two spot better than last week...

The Portland Trail Blazers went 3-1 on their recent four-game road trip, including victories at Indiana and Houston.

The second unit led the way against Indiana, as Zach Collins (career-high 17 points), Evan Turner and Nik Stauskas led a second-half surge in the 103-93 victory. Collins has consistently outperformed starter Jusuf Nurkic, at least in terms of on-court net rating, per Cleaning the Glass.

You've got to account for the fact that Nurkic sees more action against starters, but Collins' activity, athleticism and theoretical ability to stretch the floor gives Portland a different look. At the very least, the Blazers should be happy to have options in the middle.

Hughes has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 6 and ahead of the Pelicans at No. 8.

• Tommy Beer at Rotoworld has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, four spots better than last week...

The Blazers went 3-1 last week and are in the middle of a six-game homestand. However, they take on a few tough teams this week, with the Bucks, Clippers and Celtics all coming to Portland. Then, beginning in mid-November, they embark on a six-game road trip, that will take them from Los Angeles to New York and back to California.

Beer has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 6 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 8.

• Ian Levy at Fansided has the Trail Blazers at No. 5 this week, up two spots from last week...

The Trail Blazers had a monster week, pounding Houston, New Orleans and Minnesota, and dropping a close game to the Lakers. To this point, the Blazers have been in the top five in efficiency on both offense and defense, and have the fourth-best scoring margin in the league. It’s been amazing to watch them shake off their playoff struggles and pick up right where they left off at the end of last year’s regular season.

Levy has the Trail Blazers behind the Raptors at No. 4 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 6.

• Sean Deveney at The Sporting News has the Trail Blazers at No. 6 this week...

The Blazers are still the best pick-and-roll team in the NBA, but to achieve playoff success, they’ll need to rely less on the play. So far, that’s happening. They ran pick-and-roll on 21.6 percent of their plays last year, third in the NBA. This year, that’s down to 17.7 percent, or 16th in the league.

Deveney has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 5 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 7.

• Gerald Bourguet at Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 6 this week, seven spots better than last week...

It sure doesn’t seem like the Portland Trail Blazers are heading for regression. For all the hell general manager Neil Olshey has been given over the faith he put in his own players during the summer of 2016, Rip City’s bench looks drastically improved from last year.

Second-year big man Zach Collins looks like the real deal. Nik Stauskas is having a mid-career resurgence. Evan Turner, Caleb Swanigan and even Meyers Leonard have produced in spurts. This team still runs through its Big 3, but an improved bench has been the key early on.

Bourguet has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 6 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 7.