Portland Trail Blazers 2021 NBA Win Total Odds & Pick: Will Offseason Moves Translate to Wins?
Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Damian Lillard #0 and Carmelo Anthony #00 of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Trail Blazers Win Total Odds
The Case for the Over
Last year’s Blazers team wasn’t really the Blazers. They lost Rodney Hood within the first few weeks. Jusuf Nurkic was out until the bubble. Zach Collins went down early. You can just throw out that entire season for not being representative of what the team is.
Damian Lillard is absolutely an MVP-caliber player in his absolute prime. His play the past three seasons has been incredible beyond words. There just aren’t enough superlatives for how he’s played, and there’s no reason to think he drops off.
This season, the Blazers get a fully healthy Nurkic, added Robert Covington to help with defense and as a floor spacer, get Hood back, will get Collins back later in the season, have developed Gary Trent Jr., have gotten Carmelo Anthony to defend somewhat, and convinced him to move to the bench.
The Blazers have not missed the postseason since Terry Stotts’ first year on the job, with seven consecutive appearances, including two second-round appearances and one conference finals appearance.
Portland has the offense to carry them, and the defense should improve to at least the middle of the road with the return of Nurkic and addition of Covington. Some said they were the most dangerous 8th seed in NBA history last year.
What’s to stop this team from winning 50 games?
The Case for the Under
Spoiler alert: You can’t just throw out who they were last year.
What are we doing here?
Portland wasn’t “OK” on defense last year. They weren’t “not great” defensively last year.
They were 27th in defensive rating. The Warriors, Knicks, and Hornets were better defensively!
What are we doing here?
“Oh, but they were without Nurkic.”
In the 253 minutes Nurkic played in the bubble, the Blazers were 8.5 points worse per 100 possessions defensively with Nurkic on the floor.
“Oh, but Nurkic was coming back from that long absence.”
In 2018-19 before his injury, the Blazers were 3.7 points better with Nurkic on the floor defensively per 100 possessions, but still gave up 106.7 points per 100 possessions.
Nurkic is big. He’s a big body, an intimidating presence inside, and can block shots. You can also catch him off guard with multiple rotations or by pressing him to the perimeter.
Covington was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate two years ago before his injury. He’s still good; this is an unquestioned upgrade. But he’s not a player that fundamentally reshapes a defense. He showed signs of slippage last season, though he was tasked with playing small-ball center at times with Houston.
Improved perimeter containment helps Nurkic defensively, and having a better rim protector than Hassan Whiteside will help the Blazers guards.
But will it move them from 27th to where they need to be for nearly 50 wins?
The Blazers finished with a better record than their Pythagorean win percentage. Portland has generated the most hype relative to the performance of any team in the league.
Those are usually the teams you want to fade unless they’ve added a superstar, and Portland did not add a superstar.
Portland Trail Blazers Win Total Bet
I’m on the under, but I want to wait to see if it gets bet closer to 43 or 44. At that point, I feel good about the under. The floor for this team feels like it’s definitely above .500, so if you want to go with the higher range, maybe the over is playable.
But I don’t see them making the leap to a 50-win team (in an 82-game season) with the bones of a still-terrible defense in a brutal conference in a tough division.
At 41.5 I would still bet the under, but I’m hoping this gets bought up before the season begins.