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PORTLAND, Ore. — A strong January has the Portland Trail Blazers climbing the NBA power rankings ladder, jumping up as high as No. 7.
The Blazers are surging, winning five of six and boasting a 9-5 record in January, tied for the third-most wins in the NBA this month.
Portland's offense has come roaring back after a hapless two-month start to the season. In January, the Blazers rank fourth in the NBA in offense, scoring 112.6 points per 100 possessions. Only the Warriors, Thunder and Timberwolves have been better. The defense has slipped this month but is still tied for seventh overall for the season.
The Blazers have done it against a tough schedule in January, too. This month's schedule is road-heavy (nine of 16 games away from the Moda Center) and features challenging opponents (10 of 16 games against teams with winning records). The Blazers aren't just getting fat on bad competition. Portland has won games this month against the Spurs, Thunder, Pacers and Timberwolves.
February looks favorable from a strength-of-schedule standpoint as well. Though six of the 10 games are on the road, seven of the games are against teams with losing records.
All of this data makes the February 8 trade deadline all the more intriguing. Do the Blazers stick with the current roster, which seems to be gelling at the right time? Or buoyed by the team's recent success, does the front office try to pull off a deal to bring even more talent to Portland?
Here's a look at where the Blazers stand in the latest batch of NBA power rankings.
RANKINGS PUBLISHED MONDAY
CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 7 (up 7)
Previous ranking: 14
Portland's neighbors: New Orleans Pelicans at 8, Toronto Raptors at 6
What they wrote: Damian Lillard is finally an All-Star for the first time since 2015, and that's great because he's a fun player that will be a blast to watch in the game itself. However, this means nobody gets to witness the Lillard post All-Star break revenge tour and that's a loss for everyone.
ESPN: Blazers rank No. 9 (up 1)
Previous ranking: 10
Portland's neighbors: Miami Heat at 11, Cleveland Cavaliers at 9
What they wrote: The Trail Blazers are 5-1 in their past six games and have been able to win on the strength of their offense. They're averaging 115.3 points per 100 possessions, percentage points ahead of the Warriors for the second best in the league during that stretch behind the red-hot Thunder. They've also figured out their issues in home games, having won each of their past seven after losing six in a row in Portland.
Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank No. 10 (up 2)
Previous ranking: 12
Portland's neighbors: Washington Wizards at 11, L.A. Clippers at 9
What they wrote: It’s gotten to the point where I’m getting worried that Damian Lillard will lose that underdog edge. If he starts making All-Star teams, what’s going to cause him to carry that chip on his shoulder? Ah, wait. Thank goodness. Thank you Russ. This is like blowing on the fire just as it’s going out to reignite those embers and get it going again.
NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 11 (up 2)
Previous ranking: 13
Portland's neighbors: New Orleans Pelicans at 12, Cleveland Cavaliers at 10
What they wrote: Maurice Harkless got a spot start with Evan Turner out in Dallas on Friday, but was getting DNP'd prior to that, with Terry Stotts continuing to tinker with his rotation. The Blazers' bench has had some good minutes without Harkless, with Ed Davis beasting on the glass (13.7 rebounds per 36 minutes over the last 10 games) and recording double-doubles in wins over the Wolves and Mavs. They haven't been as good with both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the floor this season (plus-2.1 points per 100 possessions) as they were last season (plus-3.7), but they've been better with one of the two on the bench (minus-0.8 vs. minus-3.6). As they've won five of their last six games, Lillard has averaged 29 points on an effective field goal percentage of 65 percent and they've been at their best with reserves on the floor. Their run of playing bad defensive teams comes to an end this week, with their visit to Toronto on Friday beginning a stretch where they'll play six of eight games against the league's top-10 defenses.
RANKINGS PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY
NBC Sports: Blazers rank 13 (up 2)
Previous ranking: 15
Portland's neighbors: Cleveland Cavaliers at 14, Washington Wizards at 12
What they wrote: Terry Stotts sounded a little frustrated before his team beat the Clippers Tuesday — early in the season the defense was good but the offense stumbled, now the offense has found a groove again (111.4 points per 100 possessions in the last 10 games, fourth in the NBA) but the defense has slid back to bottom 10. As the Blazers fight for playoff position, they need both on the same night to lock down their spot.