Power Rankings: In The Top 10 After The All-Star Break
Now that the stretch run of the NBA season is officially here, it seemed like a good idea to check in on where the Trail Blazers stand in terms of the weekly power rankings. It's been well over a month since the last time we surveyed the media's opinion regarding where the Trail Blazers stack up among their 29 contemporaries, so now seemed like as good of a time as any revisit the rankings, especially with Portland riding the wave of a five-game winning streak.
So without any further ado, here's your latest Power Rankings roundup, which might be the new high water mark for the Trail Blazers this season after starting the year at the bottom of just about every list.
• Marc Stein of ESPN.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, which is four spots better than last week and 19 spots better than their ranking at the start of the season...
Hell hath no fury like a Dame scorned (by Western Conference coaches). So much for that 2-9 career record for All-Star snub Damian Lillard against Steph Curry that we were talking about last week. The conversation now has to be about how the Lillard-led Blazers just became the first of five teams to beat the mighty Warriors this season and follow that up with a win in their next game.
While I'm not going to entirely discredit the notion that Lillard is playing with an extra edge after missing the All-Star Game -- after all, he DID put up his career high in the first game after the break -- Portland had been trending up even before Dame's snub.
Stein has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 8 and ahead of the Jazz at No. 10.
• John Schuhmann of NBA.com has Portland at No. 10 this week, two spots better than last week and 15 spots better than their initial ranking...
Pace: 97.6 (18) OffRtg: 105.0 (7) DefRtg: 104.3 (18) NetRtg: +0.7 (13)
Damian Lillard dropped 51 on the champs on Friday, Lillard and C.J. McCollom each went for 30-plus in Sunday's huge win over the Jazz, and the Blazers have averaged 120 points over their last four games. But they also have the league's third best defense over the last month, and only two of the 11 games in that stretch were against bottom-10 offenses. They play three this week, but also have another big game against the Rockets.
Portland went 9-5 in January, but many of those wins came at home against sub-.500 teams, prompting some to question whether the Trail Blazers' success was due to improved play or had just hit an easy stretch of the schedule. But having won five-straight, all against teams with at least .500 records, has rightly quieted that skepticism.
Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 9 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 11.
• Jeremy Woo of SI.com has Portland at No. 11 this week, five spots better than last week and 17 spots better than their preseason ranking...
League Pass brethren, please, please go back and watch Damian Lillard decimate the Warriors. Even better: The entire team is clicking, they’ve become a chore to defend, and after falling nine games under .500, the Blazers are 14–3 since Jan. 10.
March will provide ample challenge for the Trail Blazers and their playoff aspirations, but the way they've played in during the last month and a half has put them in a position to be optimistic of their chances of making their third-straight postseason.
Woo has the Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 10 and ahead of the Hawks at No. 12.
• Matt Moore of CBS Sports has Portland at No. 8 this week, two spots better than last week and 22 spots better than the dead last ranking Moore bestowed upon the Trail Blazers to start the season...
Great reminder this week: Never, ever, ever make Damian Lillard mad. His 51-performance vs. the Warriors was the stuff that people talked about for days afterward.
This seems like a great opportunity to thank all of you for checking out our content on this here blog and on TrailBlazers.com over the last week. Strong support from you, our loyal fans.
Moore has the Trail Blazers behind the Raptors at No. 7 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 9.
• Kurt Helin of NBC Sports' ProBasketballTalk blog has Portland at No. 10 this week, six spots better than last week...
Winners of five in a row, the Blazers have the best net differential of any team in the NBA over the last 10 games (numbers aided by a 32-point spanking of the Warriors). They are getting it done on both ends. Neil Olshey used the Blazers’ cap space brilliantly at the deadline to acquire picks.
Helin has the Trail Blazers ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 9 and behind the Pacers at No. 11.
• Fox Sports, in rankings posted prior to Portland defeating Golden State and Utah this weekend, has Portland at No. 16 this week, which is one spot better than last week and 12 spots better than their initial ranking...
Ceiling: A whole series against familiar face LaMarcus Aldridge -- If Portland can keep pace as the No. 7 seed in the West, they’ll match up with the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. San Antonio emerges victorious in that hypothetical series, of course; the bigger question is whether Damian Lillard will outshine Aldridge, his former teammate who’s been far from his old self with the Spurs.
There are few things I would be less interested in than a "LaMarcus vs. The Trail Blazers" playoff narrative, but I suppose it would be better than missing the postseason all together.
Fox Sports has Portland behind Dallas at No. 15 and ahead of Detroit at No. 17.
• The panel of voters at USA Today has Portland at No. 15 this week, one spot better than last week and 10 better than their initial ranking...
Between his rap song and career-high 51 points vs. the Warriors, safe to say Damian Lillard wasn't pleased with his All-Star snub.
A lot of people weren't please with Lillard's omission, but they all didn't go out and do something at their job that no one had done before. I guess that's the difference between professional athletes and the rest of us.
The folks at USA Today have the Blazers behind the Bulls at No. 14 and ahead of the Jazz at No. 16.
• Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report, in rankings post on Feb. 19, has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, two spots better than last week...
The Blazers put their cap space to good use, getting stretch-provision candidate Anderson Varejao and a top-10-protected first-rounder from the Cavaliers in the Frye trade. The move illustrated the benefits of cap room that often go unmentioned: Instead of signing free agents, you can also take on unwanted salary and demand picks for the trouble.
If there's a criticism to be made here, it's that the Blazers didn't do anything to weaken themselves in the short term. Making the playoffs means losing their own first-rounder to the Nuggets.
Still, that's only a valid complaint if you believe a lottery pick is worth more than the experience a young roster would gain in the postseason—which is a debatable position to take.
Hughes has the Trail Blazers behind the Hawks at No. 9 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 11.