Power Rankings: On The Come Up In Week 22

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

Think back to around 8 PM on March 25. The Trail Blazers had just lost to the Orlando Magic, owners of the third-worst record in the NBA, by 10 points for their third-straight loss. The defeat cut Portland’s lead on Golden State to just a half game for the fifth seed in the Western Conference and there was mounting concern that maybe the Trail Blazers would miss the postseason all together. LaMarcus Aldridge still couldn’t run without pain thanks to a lower back contusion and on the horizon were road games against the Hawks and Bulls and a “first game back from a long road trip” contest against the Grizzlies, a team that had dominated the two previous matchups. It was arguably the low point of the season.

Six days later, things seem a whole lot different. LaMarcus Aldridge has since returned and is once again playing at a high level, which lifted the Trail Blazers to wins in their last three games. They also got some help in the standings thanks to the Suns, Warriors and Grizzlies (natch) losing key games, and while they’re still in fifth, the likelihood that they’ll fall out of the Top 8 now seems slim. Things could take another 180 degree turn by next week, but for right now, it’s good times in Rip City.

And the Power Rankers have taken notice. After bottoming out in last week’s rankings, the Trail Blazers get pushed up in most of this week’s rankings and see some significant jumps in the minds of a couple of naysayers …

· Marc Stein of ESPN.com puts the Trail Blazers at No. 13 this week, two spots better than last week …

Lookie here. After 10 consecutive losses to teams that entered the game with a winning percentage of .600 or better, Portland uncorked surprising weekend wins over Chicago (road) and Memphis (home) and, more importantly, are 3-0 since getting LaMarcus Aldridge back in the lineup.

The Trail Blazers would have gotten that elusive “win versus a Western Conference playoff team” last night if the loss, as Ben Golliver points out, hadn’t dropped the Grizzlies to the ninth spot. Nevertheless, beating Memphis is probably Portland’s best victory since beating the Mavericks in Dallas on Jan. 12. I’d put the Bulls win up there, too, but the Trail Blazers always seem to beat Chicago, for whatever reason.

Stein has Portland behind Toronto at No. 12 and ahead of Brooklyn at No. 14.

· David Aldridge of NBA.com and TNT sat out last week’s power rankings, but he’s back this week and has the Trail Blazers at No. 9

Blazers might be — might be — pulling out of the nosedive just in time.

That’s the Gucci Mane version of power ranking explanations.

I’m reluctant to declare that the Trail Blazers of November and December are “back” after three games, but they’ve played some of their best basketball of 2014 since LaMarcus Aldridge returned.

Aldridge has the Blazers behind the Bulls, who at Blazers recently beat for the the sixth-straight time, ahead of the Blazers at No. 8 and has Dallas behind Portland at No. 10.

· Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, two spots of improvement from their ranking last week …

Golden State currently owns a playoff tiebreaker over the Trail Blazers with a 2-1 series lead. Portland hosts the Warriors on April 13.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that, though I like Portland’s chances in that game considering it’s Nic Batum drinking glass night. If the Blazers could have a few more night’s like they did Sunday, they might not have to worry about the Warriors nipping at their heels for the fifth seed (though, depending on your opinion of matchups, maybe you wouldn’t mind slipping to sixth).

Spears has the Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 6 and ahead of the Warriors at No. 8. Fitting.

· John Schuhmann of NBA.com has the Trail Blazers pegged at No. 10 this week, for a four-spot jump from last week, the largest of any team in Schuhmann’s ranking this week …

Pace: 97.4 (11), OffRtg: 108.2 (6), DefRtg: 104.7 (19), NetRtg: +3.6 (9)
LaMarcus Aldridge shot just 11-for-31 in his first two games back and had another scary fall on Sunday, but his jumper was falling in the Blazers’ huge win over the Grizzlies. That was their first victory over one of the other teams in the West’s top nine since Jan. 18 (they had lost 12 straight). They’re the only team that’s done with back-to-backs and their only road games left are against the Lakers and Jazz.

The Lakers punked the Suns Sunday night (thanks guys!) and the Jazz almost beat the Grizzlies a few nights ago, so neither of those games are going to be gimmie’s. But then again, it beats playing playoff teams on the road. And the Blazers should get some kind of medal or something for being the first time to be done with back-to-backs.

Schuhmann has the Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 9 and ahead of the Bulls at No. 11.

· The panel at USA Today keeps the Blazers at No. 8 this week, same as last week …

Nicolas Batum is averaging 10.1 rebounds a game since the All-Star break after averaging 6.5 before it.

When Aldridge is on the bench, that’s about 10 rebounds a game up for grabs. Batum went for all of those, and then some.

Not that Batum isn’t happy to have Aldridge back. After the Hawks game, Aldridge’s first after returning from a lower back contusion, Batum walked by me in the locker room, turned his back to the rest of the media and said, “Yeah, I think we need LA” which was subtle jab at the media that Aldridge then ran

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with in his postgame comments.

USA Today has the Warriors ahead of the Blazers at No. 7 and the Suns right behind at No. 9.

· Matt Moore of CBSSports.com puts the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, which is seven spots (!!!) better than last week …

It’s like they spent six weeks trying to figure out why the car was making that weird noise, only to flip a switch to make the car run fine again. The switch is named “LaMarcus Aldridge.”

Look, if a team can rise or fall seven spots in the course of a week, especially in the final days of the regular season, you’re not doing a very good job of power ranking. Last week Moore noted that he took flack from Blazers fans for his recent rankings, and while all of this is trivia, it’s not hard to see why people would take issue with rankings that are nowhere near reflective of record.

Moore has the Blazers behind the Suns at No. 10 and ahead of … the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers at No. 12.

· Matt Dollinger at SI.com has Portland at No. 11, slightly better than their No. 12 rankings last week …

With LaMarcus Aldridge back in the lineup, the Blazers stopped the bleeding with three consecutive victories over playoff teams (are we still counting Atlanta?). Most impressive was Sunday’s win over the Grizzlies, who beat Portland by double digits in their two previous meetings.

I was thinking about this the other day: is this as healthy as Aldridge has been since before the All-Star break? He had already started to experience some groin issues before All-Star Weekend but didn’t look completely right even when he returned after missing the first five games after the break. But after sitting out seven games with bruised lower back, it’s possible he’s as fit as he’s been in some time.

Dollinger has the Blazers behind the Nets at No. 10 and ahead of the Bulls at No. 12.

· Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk has the Blazers at No. 7 this week, seven spots better than last week …

LaMarcus Aldridge returns and the Blazers win three in a row, including beating the Bulls and Grizzlies — beating Memphis was the first time in 13 tries the Trail Blazers beat

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another team from the West’s top nine. The Blazers are not going to catch Houston for the four seed (four games in the loss column too much to make up) but playing back to form them become a tough first round matchup.

Having home court advantage against the Rockets didn’t work last time, so maybe playing them as the underdog in the four/five matchup is the way to go.

Helin has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 6 and ahead of the Warriors at No. 8.

· We finish this week’s power rankings with Jason Patt at SBNation.com, who responds to Portland winning three straight by putting then at No. 6 this week, eight spots better than their No. 14 ranking last week …

The Blazers make a huge jump this week thanks to the return of LaMarcus Aldridge and the subsequent three-game winning streak, including an impressive win over the Grizzlies.

Patt has the Trail Blazers in an Eastern Conference Finals sandwich: behind the Heat at No. 6 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 7.

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Power Rankings: Where Portland Stands Midway Through The 2015-16 Season

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 month ago

On Wednesday, the Trail Blazers will reach the halfway point of their season by hosting the Utah Jazz at the Moda Center in their 41st game of the 2015-16 campaign. Given that, it seemed like a good time to look around the regular Power Rankings to see how the media thinks the Trail Blazers are measuring up this season. Looking at these rankings, it’s evident that most who cover the NBA view Portland as roughly the 20th best team this season, which is quite a bit better than where most had them to start the season. And of course, a lot can happen in the next half of the season, in either direction.

Now, on to the rankings at the midway point of Portland’s season…

• Marc Stein of ESPN.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 21 this week, one spot better than last week and seven spots better than their ranking at the start of the season…

A game 4-3 effort while Damian Lillard was out battling a nagging case of plantar fasciitis has enabled Portland to hang around the last playoff spot in this weird, weird Western Conference of 2015-16. Then Lillard’s eight 3s to surprisingly take down scorching-hot OKC on Sunday night delivered a happy ending to a week mostly spent lamenting a costly “clerical error.”

I don’t know how much lamentation their really was after the initial confusion surrounding the active/inactive list fiasco that kept CJ McCollum out of Wednesday’s loss to the Clippers at the Moda Center, but a win versus the Thunder that featured an episode of Lillard Time certainly puts that error firmly in the past.

Stein has the Trail Blazers behind the Hornets at No. 20 and ahead of the Kings at No. 22 this week.

• John Schuhmann of NBA.com also has Portland at No. 21 this week. That’s one spot worse than their ranking last week but four spots better than their ranking to open the season…

Pace: 97.4 (18) OffRtg: 103.1 (10) DefRtg: 105.5 (25) NetRtg: -2.4 (20)
Damian Lillard’s first couple of games back weren’t pretty, but he’s made 17 of his last 33 3-point attempts, draining five in the final 3:08 on Sunday to turn an eight-point deficit into a five-point win over the Thunder. The next 10 games is the Blazers’ easiest stretch of schedule, and it starts with a big game on Wednesday against the eighth-place Jazz, with just one game separating the two teams in the win column.

The Lakers might be the only team in the Western Conference that is out of the playoff race (not mathematically of course, but making up 10 games just to get to the 8th spot seems rather unlikely), and while there are plenty of you who would rather not see the Blazers in the postseason, that’s not going to stop the players from trying.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Kings at No. 20 and ahead of the Hornets at No. 22 this week.

• Jeremy Woo of SI.com has Portland at No. 22 this week, one spot worse than last week but six spot better than their initial ranking this season…

There were massive highs (Damian Lillard torching the Thunder) and odd lows last week (C.J. McCollum’s accidental scratch). But that big win over OKC has to inspire a little confidence, at least internally, given Portland’s next 10 games (seven at home, and Brooklyn, Philly and Washington on the road).

The Blazers were the underdog in their four previous games, all at home, but are likely to be favored in their next four, despite three of those games being on the road. Go figure.

Woo has the Trail Blazers behind the Wizards at No. 21 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 23 this week.

• Andrew Lynch of Fox Sports has Portland at No. 21, one spot better than last week and seven spots better thank their preseason ranking…

Away from the blatant tanking of the 76ers and the turmoil of the Suns, the Blazers keep rebuilding in the right way. This season is strictly about player development, and that’s paying off big time. C.J. McCollum’s emergence alongside Damian Lillard has Portland locked into its backcourt of the future, and Allen Crabbe has looked solid of late as well in Lillard’s absence.

And I don’t know that I would call “player development,” but finding out that guys like Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu all have long-term potential as key role players moving forward is another helpful feature of the first half of this season.

Lynch has the Trail Blazers behind the Wizards at No. 20 and ahead of the Kings at No. 22.

• Matt Moore of CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 20 this week, two spots improved from last week and 10 spots better than Moore’s initial dead last ranking…

The Blazers don’t need C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard to both get hot, they just need to hang around until the fourth and have one of those guys light it up. It’s not a great formula for winning, but it’s still going to work every now and then.

I wouldn’t say that’s their ONLY formula. Heck, switching the way they defended the pick and roll late in Sunday night’s game was almost as important as the clock striking Lillard Time in terms of beating the Thunder, so there’s quite a bit more going on than just hoping either Dame or CJ can’t miss.

Moore has the Trail Blazers behind the Kings at No. 19 and ahead of the Wizards at No. 21.

• Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report has the Blazers at No. 23, four spots worse than last week and seven spots worse than their preseason ranking…

Maybe it’s naive to expect the opposition to do the Blazers a solid by honoring the spirit of the law over the letter. But this feels a little petty, doesn’t it?

The loss to the Clippers, coupled with an ugly slip against the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 4, conspire to drop the Blazers a few notches. And they’ll have to wait until March 24 to get a crack at revenge against Doc and the Clips.

Until then, expect the Blazers to fill out their lineup cards in pencil.

I think we’ve all had plenty of opportunities to give our opinions on this situation. All I’ll add is that they do use pen when filling out the active/inactive list. No real business is done in pencil.

Hughes has Portland behind New Orleans at No. 22 and ahead of Milwaukee at No. 24.

• The panel of voters at USA Today has Portland at No. 23 this week, two spots worse than their ranking last week but two spots better than their lowest ranking this season…

If they could get scoring help from the bigs, they’d be interesting

That wasn’t worth the effort it took to copy and paste that blurb. USA Today has the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 22 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 24.

• Kurt Helin of NBC Sports’ ProBasketballTalk blog has Portland at No. 21 this week, unchanged from last week…

Damian Lillard went off for 17 points in the final 3:07 Sunday night to spark a win over Oklahoma City — he and C.J. McCollum make this team dangerous any given night. Portland is 2.5 games out of the playoffs in the West, but with a soft schedule coming up this is the time to make a push to join the dance.

Helin has the Trail Blazers behind the Kings at No. 20 and ahead of the Hornets at No. 22.

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Power Rankings: Moving On Up In Week Two

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 months ago

The Trail Blazers would be 5-2 and owners of the second-best record in the Western Conference were it not for an epic fourth-quarter collapse Sunday night versus the Pistons at the Moda Center. But at 4-3, the Trail Blazers are still far exceeding the ridiculously low expectations that many had for this team after the first two weeks of the season. Given that, Portland does exceedingly well in this week’s Power Rankings roundup, boasting double-digit improvements in a host of the regular rankings.

Observe…

• Marc Stein of ESPN.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 20, an impressive seven spots better than last week and eight better than their initial ranking this season…

There’s an argument to be made that C.J. McCollum was drafted too high and is a little bit too young to be such a MIP favorite, since a top-10 pick is supposed to blossom like this. But we saw so little of him in those first two seasons that you can’t ignore such a leap. Last season, remember, McCollum had three 20-point games total.

Paul George, drafted 10th, and Kevin Love, drafted 5th, both won the Most Improved Player award, so I don’t think draft positioning is going to invalidate CJ’s chances. And Jimmy Butler won MIP last year in his fourth season, so I’m not sure CJ’s youth in the league is much of an argument either. Heck, McCollum’s biggest competition might be Andre Drummond, who is younger (at least in terms of age) and was drafted higher than CJ, so I’m not really picking up what Stein is putting down here. But hey, good to see he’s got the Trail Blazers out of the bottom third of the league.

Stein has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 19 and ahead of the Hornets at No. 21.

• John Schuhmann of NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 17 this week, four spots better than last week and eight spots better than their their start of the season ranking…

Pace: 99.8 (17) OffRtg: 104.5 (5) DefRtg: 101.6 (18) NetRtg: +3.0 (12)
If Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum never cool off, the Blazers will be the surprise team in the Western Conference. The pair averaged 51.3 points, with an effective field goal percentage of 61 percent, in the team’s 3 3/4 wins last week. Given the flammability of its backcourt, it’s hard to tell if this team is for real, but we’ll know for sure by Christmas. Sixteen of their 24 games between now and then are on the road.

I was having a back and forth over text with a player last week about perceptions of the Trail Blazers this season. The final text: “They will respect us by Christmas.” So there you go. Season’s greetings!

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Timberwolves at No. 16 and ahead of the Hornets at No. 19.

• Jeremy Woo of SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 19 this week, eight spots better than last week and nine better than their initial ranking…

Damian Lillard and a blooming C.J. McCollum comprise the league’s highest-scoring backcourt, together using nearly half the team’s possessions while both shooting at efficient clips. With the West’s middle tier in limbo, if it lasts, the Trail Blazers have a chance to steal their way back into the playoffs.

I don’t think Portland making the playoffs this season would be as disastrous as something people might think, but I don’t think it’s the most important thing either. Building a foundation for a sustained run over the next five seasons should be the goal, in my opinion, rather than making the eighth seed.

Woo has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 19 and ahead of the Magic at No. 20.

• Andre Lynch of Fox Sports, in rankings posted on Nov. 5, has the Trail Blazers at No. 17, 11 spots better than last week…

Damian Lillard needs a running mate, and C.J. McCollum has stepped up to fill the void left by the departures of Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. But if Meyers Leonard is out for any length of time after a weird ankle injury Wednesday, the good vibes in Portland could sour quickly.

Well, we all know how that turned out. Leonard has actually played his best basketball after the injury, though even if he had missed time, I don’t think it would have necessarily been a make or break for the Trail Blazers, as they actually have some depth at that position for the first time in a while.

Lynch has the Trail Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 16 and ahead of the Rockets at No. 18.

• David Aldridge of NBA.com and TNT only ranks his Top 15 teams, and this week, Portland makes the cut at No. 8 after being unranked last week…

You got moxie, Blazers. Pick a suit.

That’s the kind of succinct analysis that has made DA one of my favorite NBA writers over the years.

Aldridge has the Trail Blazers behind the Rockets at No. 7 and ahead of the Thunder at No. 9.

• Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report, in rankings posted on Nov. 5, has the Trail Blazers all the way up at No. 12 this week, 13 spots better than last week…

The Blazers starting backcourt pumped in a combined 62 points on 24-of-40 shooting in a pretty stunning 108-92 win over the Utah Jazz Nov. 4. And even if results like that probably won’t be too common as the Blazers push through a transitional season, at least there’s hope the process will be entertaining.

And hey, they smoked the Grizzlies Nov. 5—on the back end of a back-to-back set. That’s no joke.

Can we agree to be in on the Blazers this year? Because I’m leaning that way and would like some company.

I’ve said it since before the start of the season: This team might not be as good as they’ve been in years past, but they’re way more fun to watch.

Hughes has the Trail Blazers behind the Heat at No. 11 and ahead of the Pistons (ahem) at No. 13.

• Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo! Sports’ “Ball Don’t Lie” blog is ranking teams this season by how interesting they are. And this week, the Trail Blazers come in at No. 3 after being unranked last week…

Say hello to your new second favorite team.

The Blazers lost 23 starters last summer and also Steve Blake, yet the group continues to compete while unleashing an offense that seems half made up of Terry Stotts’ side part trickery, and Damian Lillard’s “I Got This” brand of dominance.

Last Thursday Meyers Leonard tried to pick a fight with Zach Randolph.

The way I hear it from multiple sources is that Z-Bo was the one picking the fight, though “fight” is probably too strong of a word here. There’s a certain type of player that guys in the NBA like to test, and Meyers Leonard is one of those players.

Dwyer has Portland’s ranked behind the Cavaliers at No. 2 and ahead of the Lakers (wait, what?) at No. 4

• Matt Moore of CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 16 this week, four spots better than last week and 14 spots better than their dead last ranking to start the season…

I had the Blazers pegged as the worst team in the league this season and they’ve made that call look absolutely moronic in these first two weeks. Terry Stotts has coached his backside off with this group. They were rolling until the Pistons’ mega-fourth quarter of doom.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how the Trail Blazers respond tonight in Denver after Sunday night’s loss to the Pistons. I think the team we saw in that fourth quarter is the team that guys like Moore figured the Trail Blazers would be this season, so tonight’s game might give some indication as to whether that meltdown was just a momentary stumble or an indicator of things to come.

Moore has the Trail Blazers ranked behind the Pacers at No. 15 and ahead of the Bucks at No. 17.

• Kurt Helin at NBC Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, 10 spots better than last week…

It’s not hard to picture how Damian Lilliard and C.J. McCollum could power the Trail Blazers to the league’s fourth best offense because of their ability to shoot the three off the pick-and-roll, but their defense being 11th this young season is why they are above .500 (but will teams keep missing threes against them?).

Well, the Pistons shot 37 percent from three last night, so the snap answer to Helin’s question is “No!” But for the season, Portland’s is holding opponents to 30.6 percent from three, which is the seventh-best mark so far in the NBA. Whether that’s the defense or just opposing players missing shots is something that will shake out once we’ve got a larger sample size.

Helin has the Trail Blazers ranked behind the Thunder at No. 11 and ahead of the Bulls at No. 13.

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Power Rankings: Wait And See In Week 17

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
12 months ago

Apologies for skipping last week’s Power Rankings roundup. I was taking a couple of days of respite afforded by the extended All-Star break, so unless you wanted a ranking of the best hiking trails on Mt. Hood (I’m partial to the path that follows the old Barlow Road) or which Netflix original series’ are worth watching (I’ve seen the first season of “Peaky Blinders” and still have no idea what they’re saying roughly 80 percent of the time), I would have been of little use to you.

But now that the NBA is back to business, so too are the Power Rankings. This week, the Trail Blazers take a few knocks for getting blown out by the Jazz and for allowing the Grizzlies to overcome a 13-point deficit, but there’s still some optimism in this week’s rankings thanks to the additions of Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee.  And with a schedule that features games against the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers and Mavericks in the next week and a half, the Trail Blazers will have the opportunity to improve their place in Power Rankings and, much more importantly, the Western Conference standings.

Now, onto this week’s rankings …

• Marc Stein of ESPN.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, unchanged from last week …

The Blazers, No. 30 in the league in bench scoring each of the last two seasons, had only moved up to No. 28 before trading for Arron Afflalo. TiVo Alert: Dame Lillard and Russ Westbrook square off Friday night on ESPN; both scored 40 and flirted with triple-doubles last time they dueled Dec. 23.

I don’t know how much raw bench scoring statistics really matter, but adding Afflalo as a reserve to the mix will undoubtedly help. It could take some time though, as not only does Afflalo have to learn how to play with his new teammates, but he’ll also have to adjust to coming off the bench, something he hasn’t done in the last four seasons.

Stein has the Trail Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 9 and ahead of the Thunder at No. 11.

• David Aldridge of NBA.com and TNT drops the Trail Blazers three spots to No. 8 this week …

Classy move by Steve Blake to change his number from 25 — Jerome Kersey’s old number — to No. 5 in tribute to the late Blazers forward.

True enough. I thought the team did a very nice job memorializing Kersey during Sunday night’s game. If you missed Jerome’s rendition of the National Anthem (he was great!) or the tribute video that was played during the first timeout, go here to catch up.

Aldridge has the Trail Blazers ranked behind the Clippers at No. 7 and ahead of the Raptors at No. 9.

• John Schuhmann of NBA.com moves Portland down one spot to No. 11 this week …

Pace: 96.5 (13) OffRtg: 104.3 (11) DefRtg: 99.8 (3) NetRtg: +4.5 (6)
How are thumb injuries like mid-range shots? LaMarcus Aldridge leads the league in both of them. The Blazers almost got their best win without him on Sunday, but got outscored 34-15 in the fourth quarter, when they’ve typically been at their best. They’re 6-9 against fellow West playoff teams, with five of their next six games against the group.

First off, that’s actually a pretty good joke! Secondly, Aldridge, who missed Sunday night’s game with a sprained right thumb, is typically the guy the Trail Blazers look to late in games when they need a bucket, so it’s not entirely surprising to see Portland’s struggle late without him. Then again, having a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, regardless of who is available to play, should be enough to come away with a win.

Schuhmann has Portland behind San Antonio at No. 10 and ahead of Chicago at No. 12.

• Matt Dollinger of SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, two spots worse than last week …

The Blazers are hoping the deadline addition of Arron Afflalo can inject some life into a reeling team. Portland is just 6-11 since Jan. 14 and ranks No. 21 in offensive efficiency over that span. Leading up to that date, the Blazers ranked No. 8 in that category.

It’s been a real shame that, just when Portland’s defense started coming around, the offense faltered. There are times, like in the third quarter of last night’s game, where Portland’s offense looks nearly unstoppable. But then there are other times, such as in the fourth quarter of last night’s game, when the ball movement and fluidity that results in great shots comes to a screeching halt.

Dollinger has the Trail Blazers behind the Bulls at No. 10 and ahead of the Thunder at No. 12.

• Matt Moore of CBS Sports.com drops Portland one spot to No. 10 this week …

They outplayed Memphis for 3.5 quarters Sunday night and watched Memphis traipse away with a win in their house. Been that kind of year, but Arron Afflalo should help them find a groove if the schedule ever lightens up.

It a lot of ways, this year has been the exact opposite of last season. Last season, four of the five guys in the starting lineup played every game. This year, players have been in the out of the lineup. Last season, it was the offense that carried the load while the defense struggled. This season, it’s the other way around. And last season, the Trail Blazers made comeback after comeback in the fourth quarter and won a bunch of close games, whereas this season, they’ve been the victim of those comebacks. I guess things really do even out eventually.

Moore has the Trail Blazers behind the Bulls at N0. 9 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 11.

• The panel of voters at USA Today has Portland at No. 6 this week, unchanged from last week …

Arron Afflalo as a sixth man is a ridiculous luxury only afforded in the form of half-season rental.

No one knows what the future holds. Afflalo could start on a number of teams and does have the option of becoming a free agent this summer, but one thing the Blazers have working in their favor is that the salary cap is expected to climb precipitously after the 2015-16 season. So maybe Afflalo holds off one more year in order to cash in once a higher cap makes more dollars available?

USA Today has the Trail Blazers behind the Raptors at No. 5 and ahead of the Clippers at No. 7.

• Josh Martin of Bleacher Report, in rankings posted Feb. 20, has Portland at No. 8 this week, up two spots from last week …

Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey had it right. “We’re in a win now mode,” Olshey told The Oregonian’s Mike Tokito. “We’ve got a window here.”

That’s what motivated the Blazers to give up a trio of young players and a lottery-protected first-round pick for one player (Gee) who will be a free agent this summer and another (Afflalo) who figures to be.

To that end, Afflalo and Gee will fit right in with the Blazers. Three of Portland’s incumbent starters—LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez—will be back on the market this summer.

Big summer coming up in Rip City. I’m still of the opinion that the team is going to look about the same come the start of the 2015-16 season, but you never know how free agency is going to shake out.

Martin has the Trail Blazers behind the Bulls at No. 7 and ahead of the Raptors at No. 9.

• Jimmy Spencer of Fox Sports, in rankings post on Feb. 18, has Portland at No. 6, up two spots from last week …

Projection: The Blazers will finish with the No. 3 seed and be one of the scarier teams in the West. A date with the Mavericks in the first round could loom, and it’d be one heck of a matchup considering the two dynamic offenses. Portland’s upper hand would be its superior defense.

I’m still pulling for a matchup on the west coast, but a three seed versus the Mavericks would suffice. Hopefully the dynamism in Portland’s offense returns by then. The Trail Blazers are currently 4th in the Western Conference standings.

Spencer has the Trail Blazers behind the Raptors at No. 5 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 7.

• Drew Garrison at SB Nation puts the Trail Blazers at No. 5 this week, one spot worse than last week …

Portland rounds out the top-five, but back-to-back losses out of the break leave much to be desired. The Trail Blazers have been one of the best teams all season and the addition of Arron Afflalo added some much-needed depth, but getting blown out by the Utah Jazz before coughing up a hairball against the Grizzlies means Portland has some work to do.

I’m not sure which was worse, the last three quarters of the loss to the Jazz or the last 10 minutes of the loss to the Grizzlies. Neither will be looked back upon fondly.

Garrison has the Trail Blazers behind the Cavaliers at No. 4 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 6.

 

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