POWER RANKINGS » Top 10 In Week 9

by Casey Holdahl
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The Trail Blazers have played nearly half of their 2020-21 regular season schedule, with many of those games taking place with a significant number of starters sitting out due to injury. And after 30 games, Portland has shown themselves to be a team that can win on any given night verus any team if shots are falling, particuarlly those leaving the hand of Damian Lillard. In games versus lesser competition, they don't even need to be at their best offensively to come away with a win -- sometimes "Dame Time" is enough -- though against the better teams, they have to be at almost their absolute best in order to stay competative.

Getting CJ McCollum back some time in the near future will certainly help, and the same can be said for when Jusuf Nurkic returns (hopefully) some time in the next few weeks, and at that point, they'll need to start getting wins versus some of the teams near or above them in the Western Conference standings. They've done a remarkable job of staying afloat despite injuries, but at some point, just getting by likely won't be enough.

Here's how the Trail Blazers came out in the Week 9 Power Rankings...

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 8 this week, one spot better than last week...

"Dame Time" doesn't have an actual statistical definition, but clutch time does. In those moments -- when the score is within five points in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime -- Damian Lillard continues to rise to the occasion. He's second in the league in clutch-time points and is doing it on an absolutely absurd 61.5% from the floor and 58.8% from 3. He's 24-for-24 from the free throw line and is third in assists (15), and his team is 12-4, which is tied for the most clutch-time wins in the NBA.

The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 7 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 9. 

• John Schuhmann at NBA.com also has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, which is also one spot better than their ranking last week...

Pace: 99.8 (17) OffRtg: 115.5 (6) DefRtg: 115.1 (28) NetRtg: +0.4 (13)

You can’t say that the Blazers ran out of gas on Saturday, because they had two days off prior to their loss to the Wizards. Maybe they were just due for a stinker after what has been a remarkable run without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. They had won eight of their previous nine games, with Damian Lillard making more big shots last week: four 3-pointers on an 18-2 run to close their game in Oklahoma City on Tuesday and three more clutch shots (including the game-winning and-one) in New Orleans a night later.

The Blazers’ starting lineup — with Gary Trent Jr. and Enes Kanter in place of McCollum and Nurkic — cracked the 100-minute mark last week and has been phenomenal offensively, scoring an incredible 140 points per 100 possessions. Among the 32 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes, it ranks first in effective field goal percentage (with Trent shooting 19-for-30 from 3-point range), second in turnover rate (just 7.9 per 100 possessions), and fourth in offensive rebounding percentage (with Kanter grabbing more than 12% of available offensive boards).

The Blazers have an intriguing three-game trip this week, currently holding the worst record (2-4) in games played between the eight Western Conference teams that enter Week 10 with winning records.

And just like his peers at ESPN, Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 7 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 9. 

• Colin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports has Portland at No. 6 this week, one spot worse than last week...

Damian Lillard and the Blazers ran their win streak to six games by beating the Thunder and Pelicans before losing to the Wizards on Saturday. Lillard was his normal outstanding self this week with 36.3 points, 12.7 assists and more than six 3-pointers per game. Gary Trent Jr. kept up his strong play with 19.3 points on 41 percent 3-point shooting, while Derrick Jones Jr. has provided some solid minutes. CJ McCollum's fractured foot is set to be reevaluated in about a week, and the Blazers have done about as well as possible without him.

Ward-Henninger has the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 5 and ahead of the Raptors at. No. 7.

• Zach Harper at The Athletic has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, a two-spot improvement over last week...

Damian Lillard is a lock to be an All-Star, and that’s going to be the only involvement from the Portland Trail Blazers in the game. Lillard was close to being voted in by the players and media, but the fan vote won out. Luka Doncic even commented that he thought Dame might have been the right starter selection over him. But regardless, teams will be spared from the revenge tour Lillard goes on when he isn’t selected. As for anybody else, Derrick Jones Jr. needs to be a permanent fixture in the dunk contest until he gets tired of jumping.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 6 and ahead of the Bucks at No. 8. 

• Michael Shapiro at SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 8 this week, one spot better than last week... 

I’ll side with Luka Doncic regarding Damian Lillard’s omission from the list of All-Star starters. Lillard has catapulted himself into the MVP discussion with a torrid stretch of late, averaging 31.9 points and 9.1 assists per game in his last 11 contests prior to Monday night. Lillard is the NBA’s preeminent closer. He’s among the most prolific three-point shooters in league history. Let’s give Lillard the respect he deserves as he carries Portland during C.J. McCollum’s absence.

Shapiro has the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 7 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 9. 

• Brad Rowland at UPROXX is the only ranker to have Portland outside of the top 10 this week, putting the Trail Blazers at No. 12, four spots worse than last week...

After a heck of a run to six straight victories with a short-handed roster, reality bit the Blazers to end the week. Portland just lost to the Wizards at home before being absolutely throttled in Phoenix. Honestly, it is tough to knock the Blazers because their record far out-paces their available talent, but it will be interesting to see how they finish the first half.

Rowland has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 11 and ahead of the Heat at No. 13. 

• Mo Dakhil at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers at No. 8 in this week's rankings, two spots better than last week...

Damian Lillard has loudly made a case that he belongs in the MVP conversation. Bolstered by a recent six-game winning streak, the Blazers are 18-11 and fifth in the West with several key players out.

The biggest piece to Lillard's MVP case has been his play in clutch situations. In games with a three-point differential with three minutes left, he is shooting 66.7 percent from the field and has scored a total of 40 points. It has truly been Dame Time for the Blazers with a 9-3 record in those games.

The winning streak and doing it without CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins is why the Blazers are climbers in this week's power rankings.

Dakhil has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 7 and ahead of the Bucks at No. 9. 

• Corey Rausch at Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, three spots better than last week...

After winning six in a row, a drop-off was inevitable for Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. Rather than focusing on the loss that had to come at some point, fans of the Blazers are undoubtedly celebrating the positives that came during the winning streak.

Over the course of this week, seven players averaged double figures in scoring. This would be impressive on any team, let alone a team missing three of its top-six options on offense. Obviously, Damian Lillard led the way, averaged 35.8 points, 12.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and countless soul-crushing moments per game. Seeing himself not being named an All-Star starter is unlikely to dull the heater he is on.

Beyond Lillard, there were some nice moments for the rest of the roster. Robert Covington is rounding into form as the player this team acquired in the offseason to shore up some of their defensive weaknesses. Gary Trent Jr. is overflowing with confidence as the second option on the team at present. Enes Kanter grabbed 21 boards against his former team from Oklahoma.

Rausch has the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 6 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 8. 

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