NBA

Where do the Trail Blazers rank in the latest power rankings?

Where do the Trail Blazers rank in the latest power rankings?

The Portland Trail Blazers they are off to a 5-1 start and sit atop the Western Conference standings.

Portland’s success has drawn national media attention, getting the No. 9 slot from The Athletic’s Zach Harper on this week’s list. While the rankings may not reflect the team’s current placement at the top of the Western Conference, it does represent another significant jump in the national media’s weekly evaluation.

Portland Trail Blazers (Formerly 17th) | 5-1 | +4.6 net rating

Weekly slate: Win over Nuggets, Loss to Heat, Win over Rockets

Reason for Optimism: What an extraordinary start to the regular season for the Portland Trail Blazers as they try to shake off the stench of last season’s tank job. Damian Lillard has been stellar (before the calf strain), and we’re seeing the additions of some competent all-around players help the defense to this point. You have to be excited about Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe’s energy so far. In reality, Simons needs to be a mainstay now, and they’ll see if Sharpe can push his way further into the rotation. Fun and successful start for the Blazers.

Reason for concern: Lillard’s injury, while not significant at this point, worries me a little. He’s battled injuries before, and this team probably can’t go a long stretch without him. That’s probably fine, but you don’t want these things to linger and possibly cause other problems. The Blazers need a healthy Lillard to make some noise out west.

BEAT HIGHLIGHTS: NBA, don’t screw it up. Put Sharpe in the dunk contest.

Oddly enough, the cause for concern here isn’t very big, which speaks to how difficult it is to criticize the Trail Blazers’ play as of late. Any team would be in trouble if their stars missed extended time, but Lillard already is expected to return during or shortly after the team’s next road trip. Meanwhile, the team is winning (at least against the Rockets) without him, and the calf strain is not considered serious at this point.

With all the optimism surrounding the team right now, it’s almost surprising to see Portland among the No. 8 seed. New Orleans Pelicans (4-2) and number 10 Denver Nuggets (4-3). But power rankings have always been subjective, and a top-10 finish for a team expected to hover around No. 20 is still deeply encouraging.

The Trail Blazers go on to play the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday, without Lillard, before embarking on a grueling six-game road trip. It will be interesting to see how the team holds up and if it continues to be a nice surprise starter in the coming weeks.



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