Vegas Over/Under: 42.5
Fromal’s Record Projection: 43-39
The Bet: Avoid but lean over
The Western Conference is brutally difficult, and the Portland Trail Blazers’ preceding cap missteps will wind up costing themas they did not have too many routes with which they can boost their roster.
They even had to give up on Allen Crabbe as part of a cost-cutting sequence, trading him to move nearer to avoiding luxury-tax penalties and potential interactions with the dreaded repeater tax.
However, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are still in Rip City, plus they will team up with Jusuf Nurkic to keep this squad in playoff contention. At this time, it’s tough to oversell just how important that last part is.
The huge man, who had been acquired from the Denver Nuggets in 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 at the Mile High City.
While the Bosnian was around the floor, Portland outscored the opposition by 9.2 points per 100 possessions–far superior than the minus-1.9 internet rating earned without him.
However, is that sustainable? Only time will tell, though opponents have a scouting report on Nurkic this season. Conditioning issues may also pop up as he’s tasked with playing extensive moments for the first time.
Especially with little persuasive depth on the wings, do not expect 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 rather tight.
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