Vegas Over/Under: 42.5
Fromal’s Record Projection: 43-39
The Bet: Prevent but lean over
The Western Conference is brutally difficult, and the Portland Trail Blazers’ previous cap missteps will wind up costing themas they did not have too many paths with which they can improve their roster.
They even had to give up on Allen Crabbe as part of a cost-cutting order, trading him to move nearer to avoiding luxury-tax penalties and future interactions with the dreaded repeater tax.
But Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are still in Rip City, and they will team up with Jusuf Nurkic to maintain this squad in playoff contention. At this time, it is hard to oversell precisely how important that last part is.
The huge guy, who had been acquired from the Denver Nuggets at a midseason trade, broke out in a big way once he found himself in a new environment. He had been more focused on the defensive end than before and flashed some easing flourishes that never showed up at the Mile High City.
While the Bosnian was on the ground, Portland outscored the opposition by 9.2 points per 100 possessions–much superior than the minus-1.9 net rating earned .
But is that sustainable? Only time will tell, though competitions will have a scouting report on Nurkic this season. Conditioning issues could also pop up as he is tasked with enjoying extensive minutes for the first time.
Especially with little persuasive depth on the wings, don’t anticipate the Blazers to take massive strides forward. Nurkic should assist the star-studded backcourt maintain its playoff-caliber level, but the team’s ceiling still feels rather capped.