NBA Power Rankings Update: The Blazers Are on Fire

Portland hasn't cooled off one bit since the All-Star break. Where do they stand in this week's rankings?

Now is the time of year when NBA teams start to reveal their true colors. Depending upon their attitudes and relationships, they'll either band together or they'll fall apart when the going gets tough.

One way leads to a push toward the playoffs while the other leads to a disappointing season and a better draft position. The Blazers are among those on the rise. Who else is rising and who is falling? Our power rankings are here to tell us just that.

With numberFire's power rankings you're not getting subjective ratings influenced by the latest hype; we leave that to our algorithms. Each week, we list all 30 teams in the Association from worst to best based on our nERD metric, which is a predictive measure to help define what the team's winning percentage ultimately will be.

Where do the Association's 30 teams shake out this week?

30. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 18.4, Record: 8-49, Last Update: 29)

It was only a matter of time before the Sixers fell right back to where they belong -- dead last in the NBA.

They held off the Lakers for some time, but Ishmael Smith has come back down to earth, and the Sixers have struggled mightily on the defensive end. In their last five games, they've given up an average of 119.8 points per game on 48.9% shooting from the floor. In a three-game span against the Pelicans, Mavericks, and Magic the 76ers failed to hold any of them below 120 points.

As a result of their inexperience, poor defense, and willingness to settle for another top-five pick the Sixers have lost six straight and are 1-10 in their last 11 games dating back to January 27th. Come draft day they're sure to be in the running for college phenom Ben Simmons, but at this point, Philadelphia fans have to be asking themselves how much longer this rebuild is going to be.

29. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 18.9, Record: 11-48, Last Update: 30)
28. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 22.4, Record: 14-43, Last Update: 28)
27. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 28.5, Record: 15-42, Last Update: 27)
26. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 38.5, Record: 24-33, Last Update: 26)
25. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 39.0, Record: 23-35, Last Update: 24)
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 39.8, Record: 18-40, Last Update: 25)
23. New York Knicks (nERD: 40.4, Record: 24-35, Last Update: 23)

The brief glimpse of playoff hope for Knicks fans seems to be all but gone at this point. And it's sad to say but we're probably looking at a Carmelo Anthony shutdown in the next few weeks. I wish I could say that would make way for Kristaps Porzingis to show off his stuff, but he really dropped off since his hot start to the season -- especially as of late.

In the four games since the All-Star break, Porzingis has averaged a respectable 15.7 points per game, but he's not having as much of an impact on the game. As the Knicks have struggled, Porzingis hasn't had much success in rebounding the basketball with a mere 3.5 over the last four. There have been some very positive flashes from the rookie, but I'm not so sure a Melo-less Knick team will benefit his development much.

On the other hand, maybe the Knicks will throw the season in the tank completely and hope for a draft pick to pair with Melo and Porzingis. After all, they could be pretty good at losing. They're 1-3 in their last four, 1-9 in their last 10 and 2-13 over their last 15 games. Ehhh.

22. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 41.2, Record: 22-34, Last Update: 22)
21. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 42.2, Record: 24-32, Last Update: 20)
20. Orlando Magic (nERD: 43.8, Record: 25-30, Last Update: 19)
19. Washington Wizards (nERD: 44.2, Record: 26-30, Last Update: 21)

Contrary to last night's defeat at the hands of a depleted Bulls team, the Wizards have actually been pretty good since the All-Star break. They're 3-2 in their first five games and have played (and looked) better than that record may indicate.

Washington has taken a slight step back on offense, in terms of points per game, but they've taken a sizable step forward defensively. They've held opposing teams to an average of 97.4 points per game since the break, which amounts to a 7.3-point improvement upon their 24th ranked defense over the course of the season.

Another point of promise going forward is the newly acquired Markieff Morris. Morris has not only brought more talent to the roster, he's also brought the Wizards some much-needed depth. Instead of the ineffective Kris Humphries coming off the bench at the four spot, the Wizards can bring Morris -- who really could turn into a starter -- on to provide some offensive and defensive versatility. I look forward to the John Wall-Morris pick-and-rolls we got a little preview of in last night's game.

18. Houston Rockets (nERD: 45.4, Record: 28-29, Last Update: 18)
17. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 46.7, Record: 30-26, Last Update: 17)

On the winning end of that same matchup from a night ago, the Bulls are a team also on the rise, and surprisingly so. Despite injuries to Nikola MiroticJimmy Butler, and most recently Derrick Rose the Bulls have gone 3-1 to start out the last 20-plus game of the season.

At 35 years old, Pau Gasol has continued his outstanding play, tallying 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists in last night's shorthanded win. Outside of Gasol's continued greatness, it's been the young guys stepping up in big ways. The trio of E'Twaun Moore, Bobby Portis and Doug McDermott have been making up for the lack of scorers and shooters.

This is nothing but exciting for a Bulls team that has struggled to produce consistently from the bench. When Butler and Rose return to full health they could easily make a push up the rankings and make a run into the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

16. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 49.6, Record: 30-28, Last Update: 14)
15. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 49.7, Record: 33-23, Last Update: 16)
14. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 50.7, Record: 30-27, Last Update: 15)

We all know the drill by now -- the Blazers lost four of their starters from a season ago and weren't expected to do much of anything this year. Lost in all the offseason talk about LaMarcus Aldridge was just how good Damian Lillard is. We saw that firsthand against the Warriors last Friday night.

Portland has won three straight since the break, but they were blazing hot before the mid-season classic. The Blazers have won six straight overall and are 11-1 in their last 12 contests. As a result, they've jumped from 17th to 14th in our rankings in a matter of three weeks.

Lillard isn't the only one blazing a trail through the competition. In his three games removed from the break, C.J. McCollum has put up 28.7 points a night on a ridiculous 55.9% from the field and 70.6% from beyond the arc. Phew! Do you smell that nylon burning too?

13. Utah Jazz (nERD: 52.7, Record: 28-28, Last Update: 12)
12. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 53.3, Record: 29-27, Last Update: 11)
11. Miami Heat (nERD: 54.3, Record: 32-25, Last Update: 13)
10. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 55.1, Record:31-27, Last Update: 8)
9. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 55.3, Record: 31-26, Last Update: 9)
8. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 55.7, Record: 29-29, Last Update: 10)

As evidenced by their two-spot jump in the rankings, the Pistons are an improving team. They are a mediocre 2-2 in their last four with a 12-point loss to the aforementioned Wizards and a 5-point loss to the Pelicans (at home, nonetheless), but they've also defeated the Cavaliers in Cleveland and destroyed the Sixers in a 111-91 win.

Even after factoring in the 111 points surrendered to Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, the Pistons have been a better defensive team than they have all season. They're giving up over three fewer points per game with a defensively versatile lineup.

That is but one of the impacts the addition of Tobias Harris has yielded. With Harris on board that allows the 6'9" Marcus Morris to play the more natural power forward spot in the Pistons starting lineup. It has also added another naturally gifted scorer to the fold to accompany the offensive games of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. With more time, Detroit could be a force to be reckoned with not only down the stretch but in the postseason.

7. Boston Celtics (nERD: 59.8, Record: 33-25, Last Update: 7)
6. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 63.9, Record: 38-18, Last Update: 6)
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 67.4, Record: 41-15, Last Update: 5)
4. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 69.3, Record: 37-20, Last Update: 4)
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 71.0, Record: 41-16, Last Update: 3)
2. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 84.0, Record: 51-5, Last Update: 2)
1. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 86.7 Record: 48-9, Last Update: 1)