POWER RANKINGS » Tough Beats In Week 3

by Casey Holdahl
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After two weeks of regular season play, the Trail Blazers are owners of a 4-2 record after Monday night's win versus the Pacers in Indianapolis. And as they enter a stretch in their schedule that will see them play nine games over 15 days, let's check in to see how they fared in the latest edition of the weekly Power Rankings...

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

Damian Lillard has been blazing so far. The star guard is averaging a well-rounded 33.8 points, 6.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game this year. Keep an eye on Zach Collins, who has been playing well in his second season.

ESPN has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers (these rankings were posted prior to Monday's game) at No. 8 and ahead of the 76ers at No. 10.

• John Schuhmann of NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 12, five spots worse than last week...

Pace: 103.1 (15) OffRtg: 116.1 (3) DefRtg: 111.6 (19) NetRtg: +4.5 (11)

Damian Lillard is off to a huge start offensively, averaging 33.8 points, shooting 92 percent on 10 free throw attempts per game, and registering an assist-turnover ratio of 3.3. But he couldn't finish (in more ways than one) against Washington on Monday (getting blocked at the end of both the fourth quarter and overtime) and didn't get enough help in Miami on Saturday, as a big Blazers come back fell short. Speaking of not being able to finish, C.J. McCollum has shot a brutal 4-for-25 (16 percent) in the restricted area. The Blazers begin a six-game homestand (their longest of the season) on Thursday, but the first five games are part of a stretch where they're playing nine in 15 days.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Heat at No. 11 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 13.

• Khadrice Rollins of Sports Illustrated also has the Trail Blazers at 12 this week, four spots worse than last week...

I was waiting for that moment when Dame starts tapping his left wrist to remind everybody what time it is. It never came inn Monday’s overtime contest with the Wizards. His game-winning attempt got blocked by Otto Porter. It seemed like we were on the verge of that precious moment against the Heat on Saturday in Miami, but the last two minutes belonged to the Heat and Dame Time never came. I just want to see Dame end someone in the fourth quarter of a close game. Is that too much to ask?

Rollins has the Trail Blazers behind the Pistons at No. 11 and ahead of the Clippers at No. 13.

• Reid Forgrave at CBS Sports has the Trail Blazes at No. 10, two spots better than last week...

The Blazers have the NBA's third-most efficient offense. Damian Lillard has picked up this season where he left off in the second half of last season: as one of the frontrunners in the MVP race. He's leading the NBA in points per game (33.8). Of course, the way that Lillard wins an MVP isn't by putting up bonkers statistics. It's by the Blazers staying in the mix at the top of the Western Conference.

Foregrave has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers (these rankings were posted AFTER Monday's game, which tracks considering Foregrave put the Lakers ahead of the Blazers last week) at No. 9 and behind the 76ers at No. 11.

• Zach Harper at The Athletic has the Blazers at No. 7 this week...

Remember that defensive execution the Blazers showed last season that surprised most of us? Remember their weird struggles with their offense that REALLY surprised us? We may not have to concern ourselves with either this season. Portland can’t really stop anybody in the first two weeks, but nobody can stop them either. Their 116.1 points per 100 possessions on offense ranks third in the NBA. The offense is executing really well, but that mostly has to do with Damian Lillard obliterating people in front of him.

Whenever he fails to get selected to the All-Star team, we have to talk about how he got snubbed and then we get to watch him go on a tirade on the court. This season, it looks like he wants to eliminate the All-Star snub. He’s putting up 33.8 points on 65.0% true shooting through five games. Those are Steph Curry numbers! Well… they’d be Steph Curry numbers if he were relatively human with his shooting. Still, Lillard is killing people in front of him.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 6 and ahead of the Jazz at No. 8.

• Tommy Beer of Rotoworld has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week...

I think we can safely assume that Damian Lillard is going to take home NBA Player of the Week honors in the Western Conference. After registering a season-high 41 points in Orlando on Thursday, Dame one-upped himself on Saturday night when he hung 42 on the Heat. Lillard is the first player in Blazers franchise history with at least 40 points, five rebounds and five assists in consecutive games.

(Lillard did not win POTW honors.)

Beer has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 10 and ahead of the 76ers at No. 12.

• Gerald Bourguet at Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 13 this week, two spots worse than last week...

A couple of cracks started to shine through this week for the Portland Trail Blazers, who dropped an overtime game at home to the underwhelming Wizards, needed 34 second half points from Damian Lillard to top the Magic, and then fell in Miami despite Dame’s 42-7-6 stat line.

That Heat collapse was particularly disappointing after Rip City rallied from 19 points down to take the lead … only to watch Goran Dragic outscore the entire team 8-7 over the final 3:52 of the game.

Bourguet has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 12 and behind the Heat at No. 14.

• Ian Levy at Fansided has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, a one spot improvement over last week...

The Trail Blazers have been able to keep themselves in the morass of Western Conference teams just behind the Nuggets and Warriors, led by a scorching hot offense. Damian Lillard averaged 33.0 points across three games this week, shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 42.9 on 3-pointers. However, even more exciting for the Blazers should be the strong performances from second-year center Zach Collins.

Collins averaged 15.7 points, 4.3 rebounds. 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocks, in just 22.8 minutes per game this week, shooting 76 percent from the field and making 4-of-6 3-pointers. Collins is an active, mobile defensive center who can serve as both a rim-running threat on offense or space the floor from the outside. His development was one of the few variables that could obviously raise the Blazers ceiling this season and a strong start bodes well for his chances of adding a new dimension to the roster in the playoffs.

Levy has the Trail Blazers behind the Jazz at No. 6 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 8.

• Brad Rowland at UPROXX has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, four spots bette than last week...

Portland benefits from a bump on the heels of a 10-point road win in Indiana. The bench has been stellar in the early going and, while that may not be sustainable over 82 games, every win counts in the West.

Rowland has the Trail Blazers behind the Clippers at No. 8 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 10.

• Grant Hughes at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, four spots better than last week...

Nik Stauskas' emergence as a valuable rotation player counts as one of the biggest early eyebrow-raisers of the season. Anyone who watched him in college at Michigan had an idea that Stauskas was more than just a knockdown shooter; they knew he could handle on the pick-and-roll, finish surprisingly well at the rim and generally do more varied and interesting basketball things than he'd shown in four professional seasons.

Maybe it's the opportunity in Portland, or maybe it's a case of late blooming. Third option: Stauskas is never going to shoot 9-of-17 from deep over a three-game stretch (which he did from Oct. 18-22) again.

For now, Portland is trusting Stauskas to play crunch-time minutes, and he's delivering. If this continues, one of the most "meh" offseason signings will start to look like one of the best.

The Blazers are basically a lucky John Wall bank shot away from an undefeated record and, ho-hum, Damian Lillard seems to have added improved foul-drawing to his game. He got to the stripe 31 times in his first three games of the year.

Hughes has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 8 and ahead of the 76ers at No. 10