2018 Portland Trail Blazers Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
Portland won 49 games to take the Northwest Division last year. And they deserved it - this is a good team. But when they were swept by New Orleans in the opening round of the playoffs - in lopsided fashion - it was as if all of the team's issues were exposed, and suddenly hope was lost. This team can be a solid regular-season team as built, but in the Western Conference being pretty good isn't good enough, and it is tough to see a path from where they are now to somewhere better - not without tearing things down and finding a new path. But do they want to do that? Or is winning 45 or 50 regular-season games and maybe a playoff series here or there enough for them? And can they even keep pace with the teams around them as they are?
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Damian Lillard is only 28-years-old. I had to double check that before I wrote it down because it seems like he has been a top guard for longer than that now. He's one of the 10 or 15 best players in the league - a scoring machine who can distribute the ball almost as well as he can score it. And he has a backcourt partner in CJ McCollum who he seems to share a brain with. And while neither guy is particularly strong defensively - not that you would expect them to be given their offensive strength - the frontcourt on the team is one of the best defensively in the league. Al-Farouq Aminu is the centerpiece, Zach Collins showed massive defensive potential as a rookie, and Jusuf Nurkic does a good impression of a wall built in front of opposing shooters. But the problem seems to be when you put it all together. The backcourt scores like crazy. The frontcourt defends like crazy. But too often, when it matters and against the best teams, it is like they are two units sharing the same orbit yet not speaking the same language. Add to that bench depth that isn't great - and not helped by the loss of Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton, who all ate a lot of bench minutes. And the outside shooting has never been as good as it probably should be. So, on paper it should work, and in the regular season it works much more than it doesn't, but when the chips or down it just doesn't stand up - and it probably isn't reasonable to expect it to. Man, building a good NBA team isn't easy.
2018 Portland Trail Blazers Additions and Departures
The team needed to fix their shortage of outside shooting, so they tried to do that early in free agency while not breaking the bank doing so. Seth Curry was hurt all of last year, but the year before he had a career high in points and is developing into an effective bench player. He's not his brother, but he's serviceable for sure. And Nik Stauskas has been a disaster as an eighth pick, failing to establish himself in Sacramento where he was drafted, in Philadelphia or in Brooklyn. He was a deadly shooter in college, though, so it doesn't hurt to take him and hope that he can find his touch again. He certainly won't help on the defensive end, though.
The team didn't look for immediate help with their first-round pick, but you don't often get that in 24th anyway. What they did get was a fascinating gamble with serious upside. Anfernee Simons was a five-star recruit who committed to Louisville but then decommitted when scandal hit and Rick Pitino left. He flirted with other schools but in the end opted to just do a prep year at IMG Academy, so he is technically a high school player. He's obviously taking a massive step up in class, and that will take time. But he has a strong shot, and he is a freakish athlete. It's a pick that could really pay off down the line. It just remains to be seen what this Portland squad looks like by the time he in ready to play at a high level.
And in the second round they made another high-upside pick for the slot. Gary Trent Jr. was another five-star recruit who was seen as a first-rounder after his one year at Duke, but he slipped on draft day and was available at 37th, so they traded two future second-round picks to grab him. He's another guy with a great shot who could be a steal at his slot down the line, and he is probably readier to compete now than Simons.
2018 Portland Trail Blazers Futures Odds and Trends
NBA title odds ( from Bovada ) : +15000
Western Conference title odds : +7500
Damian Lillard MVP Odds : +3500
Season win total: 42
Portland was 45-36-5 ATS on the season, including their short playoff appearance. That makes the sixth-most-profitable team in the league and one of just eight teams that turn a profit on the season. They went "under" the total 49 times and "over" 37, so there were good profits to be had on the total.
2018 Portland Trail Blazers Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
The loss of established bench depth hurts. But this is largely the same team as last year - certainly on the starting front. And guys like Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan should be ready to take a step forward this year. I don't think they are any better than last year, but they aren't a whole lot worse, either. They won 49 games last year to top the Northwest. The division is brutal, but it was last year, too - Denver was fifth in the group with 46 wins. They will be in a fight for a playoff spot this year because of the ridiculous depth of the conference, but I don't see them as eight wins worse than last year, so the over on the win total is worth a look. But if it was up to me I'd be getting really aggressive in remaking this team next year.
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