Vegas Over/Under: 42.5
Fromal’s Record Projection: 43-39
The Bet: Prevent but lean over
The Western Conference is brutally hard, and the Portland Trail Blazers’ preceding cap missteps will wind up costing themas they didn’t have too many paths 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 closer 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 maintain this squad in playoff contention. At this time, it’s tough to oversell precisely how important that last part is.
The huge man, who had been obtained from the Denver Nuggets in a midseason trade, broke out in a big way after he found himself in a new environment. He had been focused on the defensive end than previously and flashed some easing flourishes which never showed up in the Mile High City.
While the Bosnian was on the floor, Portland outscored the opposition by 9.2 points per 100 possessions–much superior than the minus-1.9 net rating earned without him.
However, is that sustainable? Only time will tell, though opponents will have a scouting report on Nurkic this year. Conditioning concerns could also pop up as he’s tasked with enjoying extensive minutes for the first time.
Especially with little persuasive depth on the wings, don’t expect the Blazers to take huge strides ahead. Nurkic should assist the star-studded backcourt maintain its playoff-caliber degree, but the group’s ceiling still feels rather tight.
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