Milwaukee Bucks v Portland Trail Blazers

Power Rankings: Middle Of The Pack In Week 21

You get the feeling from this week’s Power Rankings that the opinion in regards to the Trail Blazers is pretty much set. Portland went 2-2 last week with home victories versus the Bucks (in overtime) and Wizards and while losing at home to the Warriors and being blown out by the Bobcats in Charlotte, which resulted in the Trail Blazers dropping one or two spots in all of the rankings. They’ve been in the middle of the pack for the last month, and that’s where they’re likely to be ranked from here forward unless they dramatically improve or take a complete nosedive in the final 12 games (!!!) of the regular season.

Here’s how they came out this week …

· Marc Stein of puts the Trail Blazers at No. 15 this week, one spots worse than last week …

Let’s hope Greg Oden really does start at center for Miami on Monday night against his old friends from Portland. It would surely be good for Blazermaniacs to focus on something else besides this ongoing slide since the All-Star break toward Everyone Wants ‘Em In The First Round status.

Greg Oden IS going to start, though I’m not sure that’s what Trail Blazers fans would like to focus on, especially if he plays well. I was thinking this morning about whether or not the Blazers could use the “everyone wants to play us in the first round” as a chip on their shoulder. And everyone wanted to play the Mavericks in the 2011 Playoffs and they ended up winning the whole thing, so maybe that helps. Who knows.

Stein ranks the Blazers behind the Wizards, one of the few playoff teams they’ve beaten in the last month, at No. 14 and ahead of the Bobcats, a team that just beat the Blazers by 30, at No. 16. Go figure.

· Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 8 this week, just one spot worse than their ranking last week …

All-Star forward LaMarcus

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Aldridge is listed as out for Monday’s game at Miami with a low back contusion. He has missed five straight games.

Pure speculation here, but I’m guessing Aldridge sits out Tuesday’s game against the Magic on Orlando and returns for the game against the Hawks in Atlanta on Thursday. Gut feeling.

Spears has Portland behind Memphis at No. 7 and ahead of Dallas at No. 9.

· John Schuhmann of has the Trail Blazers pegged at No. 14 this week, another one spot drop from last week …

Pace: 97.9 (10), OffRtg: 108.5 (5), DefRtg: 105.2 (21), NetRtg: +3.2 (9)
The Blazers are 21-5 against the Eastern Conference (tied with Houston for the best mark among West teams), but got smoked in Charlotte on Saturday and finish their five-game trip with two back-to-backs (and three teams with something to play for). If those don’t go well (and we don’t know when LaMarcus Aldridge will be back), Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies could have added importance.

While it would be nice, especially considering how difficult a time the Blazers have had against the Grizzlies this season, if Sunday’s game at the Moda Center carried little significance, but it’s hard to see that being the case. Memphis, now in the seven spot in the Western Conference standings, is just 3.5 games behind the Trail Blazers. It’s going to be tight.

Schuhmann ranks the Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 13 and ahead of the Wizards at No. 15.

· The panel at USA Today puts the Blazers up one spot to No. 8 in this weeks rankings, down from No. 7 last week …

Eastern Conference swings don’t often mean facing four good teams in five games.

The middle teams in the East are starting to put it together, even while the top teams struggle a bit (inasmuch as the team with the third-best record in the NBA and the two-time defending champs can “struggle”), and it’s not helping Portland’s cause. What looked earlier in the year like a chance to bank some road wins at the end of the season has become a full-fledged dogfight of a trip. Even Orlando on the second night of a back-to-back isn’t a given.

USA Today has the Trail Blazers ranked behind the Warriors at No. 7 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 9

· Matt Moore of puts the Trail Blazers at No. 18 this week, a two spot ding from last week …

I got hammered by Blazers fans for last week’s ranking. I suspect the outrage will be a tad bit quelled this week.

Takes a lot of courage to soldier on in the face of such complaints. And for the record, I didn’t have a problem with Moore ranking the Blazers No. 16 last week. I DID have a problem with him putting the Pacers at No. 17. Sorry, but that makes it difficult to take the rest of the ranking seriously. At least he put Indiana at No. 14 this week.

Moore has the Trail Blazers behind the Knicks at No. 17 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 19.

· Matt Dollinger at has Portland at No. 12, yet another one spot drop from their previous ranking …

Portland began a critical five-game road trip with a 30-point loss to the Bobcats. That’s pretty indicative of how things are going for the Blazers these days. Most troubling of all, Portland is 0-7 against the West’s four best teams (Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets) over the last two months. It was 6-1 against those teams before then.

You would hope that the Trail Blazers’ best days this season aren’t already behind them, but it’s hard to argue with the results. I’m not sure what would help, but if feels like they need something kind of moment to get back on track in time for the playoffs.

Dollinger ranks the Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 11 and ahead of the Suns at No. 13.

· Jason Patt at rounds out the “one spot worse” rankings by putting Portland at No. 14 after being No. 13 last week …

LaMarcus Aldridge has dealt with some injury issues of late, and even when he has played, he hasn’t been that great. Since the All-Star Break, Aldridge is shooting 39.7 percent.

Getting Aldridge back won’t cure the Blazers, especially if he continue to shoot sub-40s from the field, but he improves Portland’s chance on a night in, night out basis regardless of whether his shot is falling.

Patt has the Trail Blazers behind the Bulls at No. 13 and ahead of the Timberwolves at No. 15.