POWER RANKINGS » New Year, Same Rankings In Week 13
It's been a pretty good start to 2019 for the Portland Trail Blazers. Jusuf Nurkić is playing easily the best basketball of his career, are one of four teams that are 3.5 games back in the Western Conference playoff race and have won four of their last five after defeating the New York Knicks Monday night. They've also reached the midway point of the regular season with a record of 24-17, which is their best mark at this point of the season since 2014-15. They're not yet where they need to be, but they could be doing a whole lot worse.
Just as they've stayed in the middle of the Western Conference playoff pack for the last month, so too have they remained in generally the same position in the weekly Power Rankings. If they're able to string together a quality January, which should be possible considering they're in the midst of a stretch in which they're playing 11 of their next 16 at the Moda Center, they might finally break their stalemate in the standings and weekly rankings. And if not, there's plenty of good teams below Portland in the standings that would love to take their place.
Here's where the Trail Blazers stand in the first weekly Power Rankings of 2019...
• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, unchanged from last week (and the last month for that matter)...
The Blazers appear to have a third scorer behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum whom they can depend on in center Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic has scored at least 20 points in five of the past six games, including 27 points against Golden State on Dec. 27. The 7-foot, 275-pounder also has already logged 20 double-doubles in 40 games.
The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Clippers at No. 11 and ahead of the Jazz at No. 13.
• John Schuhmann at NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, unchanged from last week...
Pace: 100.2 (17) OffRtg: 109.8 (12) DefRtg: 108.9 (15) NetRtg: +0.9 (16)
The Blazers just completed a 15-game stretch in which all 15 games were against the non-Phoenix division of the Western Conference or against a top-four team in the East. They went 9-6 over that stretch (though with below-average numbers on both ends of the floor) and now get three home games against East teams that are a combined 5-12 in West arenas. C.J. McCollum has been struggling. He had one big game against Philadelphia on Dec. 30, but the last 10 games have been his worst 10-game shooting stretch (effective field goal percentage of 44.1 percent) in his four seasons as a starter. He has shot much worse from 3-point range, but also hasn't been getting to the basket as much as he was through mid-December. Jusuf Nurkic has picked up some of the slack, averaging 22.2 points on 59 percent shooting over the last six games.
Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 9 and ahead of the 76ers at No. 11
• Reid Forgrave at CBSSporrts.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, also unchanged from last week...
The Blazers have scored 4,449 points this season. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have scored 1,870 of those points. That's 42 percent of their team's scoring. That's, um, not balanced. It's too bad that we likely will never be able to see what this version of the Lillard-McCollum show could look like with a third superstar.
For the record, Jusuf Nurkić has 626 points this season.
Forgrave has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 11 and ahead of the Jazz at No. 13.
• Tommy Beer at Rotoworld.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, unchanged from last week...
Monday’s home game vs. the Knicks marks the halfway point of Portland’s 2018-19 regular season. Per their game notes, the Trail Blazers were 22-19 through 41 games last season and are guaranteed their best record through 41 games since the 2014-15 season (30-11).
Beer has the Trail Blazers behind the Clippers at No. 11 and ahead of the Lakers at No. 13.
• Brad Rowland at UPROXX.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, one spot better than last week...
Quietly, the Blazers are playing quite well. Portland is riding a streak of four wins in five games and the team’s only loss was a two-point defeat to the (very) good Oklahoma City Thunder. Oh, and things should continue with a home game against Chicago on Wednesday.
Rowland has the Trail Blazes behind the Thunder at No. 10 and ahead of the Clippers at No. 12.
• Gerald Bourguet at HoopsHabit.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, unchanged from last week...
The Portland Trail Blazers have won five of their last seven contests, but the biggest story coming out of Rip City right now has to be Jusuf Nurkic, who’s done an excellent job covering up for CJ McCollum‘s recent shooting woes.
In an overtime win over the Kings, the Bosnian Beast notched a rare 5×5 game, finishing with a whopping 24 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and five steals. He followed that up with 22 points and eight boards against OKC, a 25 and 15 night as the Blazers halted the Rockets’ red-hot streak, and finished the week with another 20 and eight against the Knicks. When Nurkic plays like this, Portland is a formidable challenge.
Bourguet has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 9 and ahead of the 76ers at No. 11.
• Khadrice Rollins at SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, one sport worse than last week...
It just so happened that Jusuf Nurkic’s weakest stat line of the week (22 points, eight rebounds, three steals, one assist one block vs. Oklahoma City) was also the only game Portland lost. The Blazers big man took care of business against the Kings (24 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and five blocks) and Rockets (25 points, 15 rebounds, three assists).
Rollins has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 10 and ahead of the Jazz at No. 12.
• Zach Harper at The Athletic (subscription) has the Trail Blazers at No. 12, unchanged from last week...
Would Portland Trail Blazers fans rather have a redo on Kevin Durant but he ends up leaving them for Golden State in 2016 or Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum lead the Blazers to back-to-back NBA Finals series they have only a 10 percent chance of winning? Portland already had to deal with the Michael Jordan-Sam Bowie comments for decades. Since 2007, they’ve been reminded often that they passed on Durant for Greg Oden. As we know, Oden busted out due to a broken body, and KD became one of the best players we’ve ever seen. So how much solace could be taken in a scenario in which Durant is a Blazer for nine years, they don’t win any titles, and eventually he leaves the organization for the Warriors? Or would that eat at them far too much?
There's more of this but you don't really need to read it, or at least if you do, you should be forced to pay for it.
Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Clippers at No. 11 and ahead of the Lakers at No. 13.