2019-20 Season Line & Odds:
OVER 45.5 Wins (-115) / UNDER 45.5 Wins (-105)
Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers out-performed expectations and made it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000. But, in an even more loaded Western Conference, will they be able to make it back? It’s hard to say definitively whether they got better or worse this offseason, which is usually not a good thing.
Let’s start with the positives. I’m a fan of their moves to retain Rodney Hood and add Kent Bazemore, and Anthony Tolliver. Hood is an athletic wing who played a big part in the team’s postseason success, having averaged 14.7 points per game on 57.6 percent shooting in the Western Conference Semifinals. I can see Terry Stotts integrating Hood into the offense more next year and leaning on him more heavily, especially with the departure of Seth Curry. Swapping Evan Turner, who never really seemed like the best fit due to his lack of shooting, for Bazemore, who should be a bigger threat off the ball, should be an upgrade. Tolliver, an 11-year veteran, should be able fill the role of a stretch-4 to take some pressure off Lillard and McCollum when they’re doubled. He can bolster their second unit, especially as a career 37.6% shooter from deep.
Now, on to the more questionable moves. The Blazers seem to have significantly downgraded with the departures of Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. Harkless and Aminu were two solid wing defenders and shooters, and their departures seem to have left a couple of large roles to fill in their frontcourt. So, it will be interesting to see what Bazemore and Tolliver can do to mitigate a big drop-off in production this year.
I'm not one to make excuses for teams when it comes to scheduling, especially since the Trail Blazers lead the league in miles traveled almost every year due to their remote location. However, an interesting wrinkle from yesterday's NBA schedule release is that Portland will have a brutal eight-day stretch in late January/early February that will include A LOT of travel. The Blazers will play six games in an eight-day span, alternating between home and away each game. This stretch includes a 960-mile trip to Los Angeles and back, a 1,240-mile trip to Denver and back and a 766-mile trip to Salt Lake City and back all in just over a week. This may not seem like it'll have a huge impact on the team as of right now, but there will most likely be some nagging injuries by that time, and even if Jusuf Nurkic is 100% by that time, he probably won't see the court during a stretch as taxing as that.
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