Vegas Over/Under: 42.5
Fromal’s Record Projection: 43-39
The Bet: Avoid but lean over
The Western Conference is brutally hard, and the Portland Trail Blazers’ previous cap missteps will end up costing themas they didn’t have a lot of routes with which they can boost their roster.
They had to give up on Allen Crabbe within a cost-cutting order, trading him to move closer to preventing luxury-tax penalties and potential interactions with the dreaded repeater tax.
But Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are still in Rip City, plus they’ll team up with Jusuf Nurkic to maintain this squad in playoff contention. Right now, it’s tough to oversell precisely how significant that last part is.
The big man, who had been obtained in the Denver Nuggets at a midseason trade, broke out in a big way after he found himself in a new environment. He was more focused on the defensive end than before and flashed some facilitating flourishes that never showed up in the Mile High City.
While the Bosnian was around the ground, Portland outscored the opposition by 9.2 points per 100 possessions–far superior than the minus-1.9 internet rating earned without him.
But is that sustainable? Only time will tell, though opponents will have a scouting report on Nurkic this season. Conditioning concerns could also pop up as he is tasked with enjoying extensive minutes for the very first time.
Especially with little persuasive depth on the wings, don’t anticipate the Blazers to take huge strides forward. Nurkic should assist the star-studded backcourt maintain its playoff-caliber level, but the team’s ceiling still feels fairly capped.
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