POWER RANKINGS » Still Top 10 After A Tough Week 7

by Casey Holdahl
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After getting off to a faster than anticipated start this season, the Portland Trail Blazers encounter their first bout real adversity last week. Losing on the road to the Bucks and Warriors by an average of 35.5 points and then dropping their return home to the Clippers despite a 15-point second-half lead resulted in Portland first three-game losing streak and questions about whether they are really as good as they looked in the first month of the season.

But while the Trail Blazers rightfully dropped in the Power Rankings after going 2-2 last week, they're still in the Top 10 of most of the lists this week. And if they're able to get a few wins at home this week versus the Magic and Nuggets before hitting the road for two games in Texas, they could quiet those questions and see their stock improve in next week's rankings.

But now, onto the Week 7 rankings...

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, five spots worse than last week..

Keep an eye on Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who suffered a right shoulder contusion during a loss to the Clippers on Sunday and didn't play in the second half. With Nurkic out, the Blazers turned to Meyers Leonard in the starting five and were outscored 38-16 in the third quarter. Leonard had nine points and 16 rebounds, but if the Blazers are hoping for more offense sans Nurkic, Zach Collins is the better bet. The 7-foot, 235-pound sophomore is averaging 8.4 points and a 37.8 3-point percentage off the bench.

ESPN has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 8 and ahead of the Lakers at No. 10.

• John Schuhmann of NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, three spots worse than last week...

Pace: 101.2 (14) OffRtg: 110.7 (7) DefRtg: 108.7 (16) NetRtg: +2.0 (10)

The Blazers have gone 2-5 against a tough travel schedule (a six-game trip that went from the west coast to the east coast and back again, and then a home game), scoring less than a point per possession in three of the last four losses. They made a lineup change (Jake Layman out, Maurice Harkless in) on Sunday, but a Jusuf Nurkic shoulder injury prevented them from getting to what has been the league's best lineup in the second half against the Clippers. The lineup of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu and Nurkic has outscored opponents by 26.5 points per 100 possessions (the best mark among 32 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes) and has been Terry Stotts' most-used lineup in the fourth quarter. The Blazers have a couple of days off to do some laundry and get their legs back before hosting the Magic on Wednesday.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Warriors at No. 6 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 8.

• Reid Forgrave at CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 6 this week, just two spots worse than last week...

CJ McCollum is a top-notch three-point shooter. But you already knew that. Did you know that it's his mid-range shooting that has McCollum posting a career-high effective field-goal percentage this season? McCollum is leading the NBA in mid-range shooting percentage.

Forgrave has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 5 and ahead of the Thunder at No. 7

• Khadrice Rollins of SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, six spots worse than last week...

The Trail Blazers got closer and closer to winning in each game during their three straight losses, but the first loss was by 43 points. And the second loss was by 28. So closer didn’t mean too much. Sunday’s game against the Clippers was a chance to brush the blowouts to the side, but losing the third quarter 38-16 means Portland has to keep dealing with the stench of defeat for a bit longer.

Rollins has the Trail Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 8 and ahead of the Lakers at No. 10.

• Zach Harper at The Athletic has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, four spots worse than last week...

Back-to-back losses by the Portland Trail Blazers seemed to really sink their defensive rating and net rating. We’re not even including the loss to the Clippers on Sunday because that four-point loss won’t really affect these numbers that much. But dropping a game to the Bucks by 43 points and following that up with a 28-point loss to the Warriors (no Steph or Draymond) just kills them. Before the loss to the Bucks, the Blazers ranked ninth in the NBA in defensive rating. They had the third highest net rating at +6.5. Then a mini-apocalypse happened to the Blazers.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 8 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 10.

• Tommy Beer of Rotoworld has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, five spots worse than last week...

As of last Monday, the Trail Blazers were one of only three teams ranked in the top-8 in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency and were 3rd overall in Net Rating. Portland then proceeded to get obliterated by the Bucks and Warriors in consecutive contests, losing those two games by a combined 71 points, and allowing 129.5 points per 100 possessions. The Blazers closed out the week by blowing a 13-point halftime lead to the Clippers at home on Sunday night.

Beer has the Trail Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 8 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 10

• Gerald Bourguet at Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, an eight-spot drop from last week...

Last week, our NBA Power Rankings caught some flak for only bumping the Portland Trail Blazers — who had the best record in the West at the time — up to No. 3 because of their 1-2 week. After following up with a 1-3 week, that decision appears to have been validated.

A six-game road trip this early in the year is tough for any team, but since that 10-3 start, the Blazers are 2-5 and their only wins came against the Knicks and imploding Wizards. Cold 3-point shooting, declining bench production and defending the 3-point line are all areas Portland needs to improve after that rough stretch on the road.

Bourguet has the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 10 and ahead of the Pistons at No. 12.

• Brad Rowland at UPROXX has the Trail Blazers at No. 13 this week, seven spots worse than last week...

Regression is attacking the Blazers. Portland’s active three-game losing streak has come against quality competition but a 43-point loss to the Bucks is inexplicable and the Blazers weren’t competitive against the undermanned Warriors, either.

Rowland has the Trail Blazers behind the Pistons at No. 12 and ahead of the Hornets at No. 14.

• Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report, in rankings posted on Nov. 23, has the Trail Blazers at No. 6 this week, two spots worse than last week...

Run Lillard off the three-point line all you want; he'll just beat you with close-range shots instead. Pay too much attention to him, and CJ McCollum will burn you. Just like he did in scoring a team-high 31 points to beat the Knicks on Tuesday.

Though their lengthy trip featured some stumbles and a blowout loss to the Bucks, the Blazers generally comported themselves like a team that deserves a spot this high. And as Portland returns home—where it's 7-2 on the year—for a three-game stand next week, we should expect this positioning to last.

Hughes has the Trail Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 5 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 7.