Portland Trail Blazers: What are experts saying about the Blazers after Week 4?

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
2 of 3
Portland Trail Blazers
Carmelo Anthony, Portland trail Blazers (Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports) /

Where are experts ranking the Portland Trail Blazers as a team?

 NBA.com — No. 14 (↑ 2 from last week)

Just as their season has been, NBA.com had an up-and-down evaluation on this Portland Trail Blazers team. CJ McCollum was named the Plus-Minus Player of the Week (+59 last week), with a +17.1 on-off swing for his efforts this year. But, as John Schuhmann noted, the Trail Blazers became the first team to blow a 20-point lead in 2020-21.

Schuhmann noted a few things to watch for over the next few games: (1) can the Blazers bench sustain leads? They were excellent in the Jan. 11 win over Toronto, highlighted by Carmelo Anthony’s 20-point scoring barrage. The bench as a whole combined for 46 points. To their credit, they’ve outscored opposing benches in four of their last five games, a welcome development. And then (2) it’s nothing but subpar defenses until Jan. 24.

ESPN.com — No. 12 (— 0 from last week)

ESPN’s Royce Young made a talk-worthy point about how Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have each had moments of brilliance this season. But, it hasn’t always been at the same time. In a way, it hasn’t mattered. As ESPN Stats & Info brought out, the two have been walking record-breakers together this season.

The real key, in my eyes, is getting a bonafide third scorer every night. For example: Portland moved to 8-1 in regular season games in which Lillard, McCollum, and Anthony scored 20 or more points in the same game. By estimation, it seems the Blazers are more productive when they get “average” Lillard and McCollum and high-level contributions from their second-tier players.

SI.com — No. 14 (↑ 4 from last week)

Sports Illustrated’s Michael Shapiro has the most recent update to his Power Rankings, factoring in the Blazers’ 112-111 victory over the Raptors. His key takeaway over the first three weeks was the enhanced shooting profile of CJ McCollum.

This season, McCollum is enjoying the most efficient season of his career (62.4 TS%), a byproduct of his more three-point-centric shooting style. 52.9 percent of his shot attempts have come from deep, and perhaps just as remarkable, he’s getting to the free throw line at his highest rate since 2016-17. This year feels as though it could be the year the Portland Trail Blazers have two All-Star representatives.

CBS Sports — No. 14 (↓ 3 from last week)

Realists will appreciate Colin Ward-Henninger’s analysis of the Blazers this week. Most will take a 2-1 stretch over a three-game stretch any time. But for a Blazers team facing the NBA’s three worst defenses, expecting perfection was probably reasonable.

On a more positive note, it is alluring to see so many different national outlets recognizing what CJ McCollum is doing this season. He’s matching Stephen Curry’s historic pace, providing just the third instance in NBA history in which a player has hit 49 3-pointers over their first nine games. There’s a level of urgency to his play that has been difficult to ignore.

Bleacher Report — No. 14 (↑ 2 from last week)

B/R’s Mo Dakhil offered some sound, game-based viewpoints on the Portland Trail Blazers this season, highlighting three players that caught his eye defensively. As you might have guessed, Gary Trent Jr., Derrick Jones Jr., and Robert Covington were those named.

He sings a similar tune, in terms of watching for the Blazers to finally piece together consistent defensive effort. It could be fool’s gold, given who they played last week, but the Blazers seem to be putting it together.

Anecdotally, they seemed locked in during their comeback of the Raptors. And statistics suggest they’re beginning to make adjustments. They go from the No. 24-ranked defense in the first half to No. 10 in the second half. It could be a straw-grasp, but what’s really a guarantee nine games into a season?

HoopsHabit — No. 13 (↓ 7 from last week)

HoopsHabit’s latest edition of their Power Rankings don’t take into account the Blazers’ gritty win over the Raptors either, but based on his assessments of the first nine games, Corey Rausch thinks it’s time to start asking some difficult questions about this Blazers group.

He also observed the slow start for Blazers big Jusuf Nurkic. Thus far, the Bosnian big is averaging just 9.5 points and 7.2 rebounds.

The Athletic’s Jason Quick reported that Nurkic’s struggles can be attributed to conditioning, and off-court issues. It should be interesting to see if he can overcome that in the coming weeks.

The Athletic — No. 12 (↑ 3) (subscription-required)
NumberFire — No. 15 (↑ 4)
Uproxx — No. 6 (↑ 4)
NBC Sports Northwest — No. 14 (↓ 1 from last week)