- The Trail Blazers are tied with the Warriors for first place in the Western Conference
- Can Portland continue rolling while its opponents deal with injuries and internal discord?
- Should you bet big on the Blazers while their odds are still long?
Bookmakers aren’t buying into the Blazers’ red hot start. Portland’s average odds to win the 2019 NBA Championship are just +8500 despite the fact that Terry Stotts’ team is tied with Golden State for the best record in the Western Conference.
The Warriors are still the heavy favorites at -170, as expected, but the Rockets (+1300), Lakers (+2200), Thunder (+3200), Jazz (+4900), and Pelicans (+5500) all have shorter odds than the Trail Blazers even though they also have fewer wins.
2019 NBA Championship Odds
|Golden State Warriors||-160|
Portland’s long odds are surprising given the team’s early season dominance. The Trail Blazers lead the league in rebounding, and rank third in net rating, sixth in offensive rating, and eighth in defensive rating. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games, and are one of the NBA’s most lethal teams from beyond the arc, where they rank eighth in three-pointers made and 10th in three-point field goal percentage.
The Trail Blazers lead the league in rebounding, and rank third in net rating, sixth in offensive rating, and eighth in defensive rating.
So why isn’t Portland getting more respect? There are a few reasons.
Oddsmakers still remember how the Blazers collapsed like a house of cards last season in their playoff series against the Pelicans. New Orleans outscored Portland by nine points per game and shot 52% from the floor and 40% from deep. It marked the first time since 2003 that a number six seed swept its first-round series, and sportsbooks are likely still stinging from the losses they incurred.
Portland Has Had a Relatively Easy Schedule
It’s hardly their fault, but the Trail Blazers have had just the 10th most challenging schedule at this point in the season. Nine of Portland’s first 16 games have been at home, and four of them have come against teams with sub .500 records. Bookmakers clearly believe the Blazers will start to struggle once they hit the road and begin playing more competent competition.
The Blazers Still Aren’t Sharing the Ball
The Trail Blazers finished dead last in assists per game in 2017-18 and are 27th this year. That isn’t a big deal during the long grind of the regular season, but it makes Portland very easy to contain during a playoff series when teams have time to develop more intricate game plans.
Lonzo was matched up with Damian Lillard tonight and did a really good job fighting over screens, denying, getting deflections while staying in front. He was a big part of holding him to just 8-23 shooting and here’s some of his highlights. pic.twitter.com/AQVrMT01zO
— UnwrittenRules (@UnwrittenRul3s) November 15, 2018
So long as opposing teams contain Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers have few other players capable of generating offense for themselves or others. It’s the Blazers’ Achilles heel, and it’s unlikely to change unless Portland General Manager Neil Olshey makes a major deal.
Other Western Conference Powerhouses Haven’t Been at Full Strength
Portland’s status as a Western Conference co-leader should probably come with an asterisk as many of the West’s top teams have had to deal with injuries to key personnel. Russell Westbrook has only appeared in seven of Oklahoma City’s first 15 games, James Harden and Chris Paul have combined to miss five games for the Rockets due to injuries and suspensions, and Anthony Davis has been held out of three of New Orleans’ games with assorted issues.
All three aforementioned teams should be able to cruise past Portland when they’re at full strength.
Should You Bet on the Blazers?
Bookmakers are right to be skeptical about the Blazers. Portland did little to address its weaknesses from a year ago and are just one Damian Lillard injury away from heading to the lottery.
Portland did little to address its weaknesses from a year ago and are just one Damian Lillard injury away from heading to the lottery.
If you’re looking for a safer bet, we recommend the Raptors at +820. Toronto sits atop the Eastern Conference at 13-4 and ranks in the top five league-wide in points, plus/minus, offensive rating, and net rating. The Raptors have already had a pair of six-game winning streaks and have recorded impressive victories against the Celtics, Sixers, Lakers, and Jazz.
Rozier elevates for the board but Kawhi Leonard just snatches it from him pic.twitter.com/lYxHCLRqta
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) November 17, 2018
The Warriors are still the favories, and deservedly so, but they’re proven over this past week that they’re not immune to injuries and internal discord. The Raptors remain the one team that could really make them sweat in the Finals.
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