POWER RANKINGS » Rotations Change, Rankings Stay The Same In Week 15

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers look considerably different than they did at this time last week with Jusuf Nurkic returning to the lineup after missing over two months with a broken right wrist and the addition of Norman Powell at the trade deadline. But even with those improvements to the roster, not to mention winning three-straight and seven of their last 10, the Trail Blazers standing in this week’s Power Rankings remains mostly unchanged.

But considering they’ve mostly defeat the teams that they should -- and with margins that are often slimmer than you’d like to see -- it’s a bit difficult to argue that they should be ranked higher. But with three of their next fiver games against some of the best teams in the league, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to show they can beat playoff teams, which would come with a corresponding improvement in the weekly rankings. Of course, it could go the other direction as well.

Here’s how the Trail Blazers came out in the Week 15 Power Rankings...

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, unchanged from last week...

The addition of Norman Powell is an interesting one for the Blazers. They are clearly in search of a two-way upgrade and defensive versatility to complement Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but it also opens the door for small-ball lineups with Robert Covington playing the 4. As Portland gets healthy and its depth has been reinforced, it has the look of a dangerous group that might be a bigger playoff threat than some are giving the Blazers credit for.

The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 8 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 10.

• John Schuhmann at NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, unchanged from last week...

Pace: 98.6 (21) OffRtg: 116.2 (6) DefRtg: 116.9 (29) NetRtg: -0.6 (18)

The Blazers got CJ McCollum back two weeks ago, traded two rotation wings for Norman Powell on Thursday, and got Jusuf Nurkic back from a 10-week absence over the weekend. Those are all major changes. But this team seems to play the same game every night, no matter who’s in the lineup around Damian Lillard and no matter who the opponent might be. The offense is great, the defense is terrible, and nothing is determined until the last few minutes.

Since the All-Star break, the Blazers rank first offensively (119.1 points scored per 100 possessions) and last defensively (120.6 allowed per 100). Nine of their 11 post-break games have been within five points in the last five minutes, they’ve won seven of those nine close games, lost the other two, and have a negative point differential over the entire stretch.

Powell totaled 35 points (shooting 6-for-9 from 3-point range) in his first two games as a Blazer, and Portland allowed just 102 points per 100 possessions in his 63 minutes on the floor. He started for Lillard on Friday and bumped Derrick Jones Jr. to the bench when everybody was healthy on Sunday.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 9 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 11.

• Collin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports moves the Trail Blazers up one spot to No. 8 this week...

Portland added another scorer at the deadline in Norman Powell, who will take some offensive pressure off Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, while sacrificing some wing size with the departure of Gary Trent Jr. The Blazers lost to the Nets before sweeping the Florida teams (Heat, Magic, Raptors) to close out the week. Powell averaged 17.5 points and hit 6-of-9 3-pointers in his first two games with the team, while McCollum has started to get going after a lengthy absence, averaging 27 points over his last three games.

Ward-Henninger has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 7 and ahead of the Lakers at No. 9.

• Mo Dakhil at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers at No. 8 this week, one spot better than last week...

It was a good week for the Blazers. First, they traded Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood for Norman Powell. Then they got Jusuf Nurkic back from his broken wrist.

As good as Trent has been for the Blazers, Powell is a better shooter from three, and even though he is smaller, he defends bigger, which will help the Blazers.

Powell impressed in his first game as a Blazer. He dropped 22 points while going 5-of-7 from three. Nurkic jumped right back into the starting lineup for Portland but was on a minutes restriction as he began working his way back into form.

The Blazers could have gone undefeated this week but dropped a close one against the Nets. A 3-1 record is still good enough to move them up a spot in the rankings. More importantly, Portland is getting healthy just at the right time.

Dakhil has the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 8 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 10.

• Corey Rausch at Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, unchanged from last week...

If there was any question before this week that the Portland Trail Blazers were all in on this season the deadline erased those questions. Portland swooped in and nabbed Norman Powell from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. Having Jusuf Nurkic return to the court on Friday was the cherry on top.

Powell is having a career year and is a great pick-up for the stretch run for the Blazers. For the Raptors, Powell averaged 19.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is turning into a nuclear scorer, hitting 43.9 percent of his 3-point shots before being traded. He is not much of a playmaker, but he is a lengthy defender who will become one-third of the most lethal three-guard lineup in the league. If the Blazers can anchor the defense behind that trio with Nurkic and Robert Covington they may be able to make another push outside of the first round of the playoffs.

Moving on from Trent hurts, especially considering the payday Powell will be due this offseason. However, this is a bet on the continued progression of the likes of Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons. The Blazers are building something special, going scorched earth on opposing defenses along the way.

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

• Zach Harper at The Athletic also the Trail Blazers at No. 8 this week, unchanged from last week...

One sentence to sum up the trade deadline for this team: The Portland Trail Blazers went all-in on offense by acquiring Norman Powell, but Terry Stotts and company believe their defense will improve simply by getting healthy and having all of their pieces fall into place.

Why are they ranked here? The Blazers have won 10 of their last 14 games, but Portland definitely isn’t better than the seven teams above it (at least not right now). So moving the Blazers up with a 3-1 week wasn’t going to happen. Getting Jusuf Nurkic back is huge for them, but we still don’t know if we’ll ever see this team fully healthy this season.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Suns at No. 7 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 9.

• The panel of voters up north at The Score has the Trail Blazers at No. 9, unchanged from last week...

Newcomer Norman Powell is playing well, and he'll pair nicely with CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, who recently returned from injury, to give the Blazers an extra edge come playoff time.

The folks at The Score have the Trail Blazers behind the Clippers at No. 8 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 10.

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