Portland Trail Blazers season preview
This preview originally appeared in our 2023-24 VSiN NBA Betting Guide, which was released on Thursday, October 5. To become a VSiN Pro subscriber and get all of our NBA coverage throughout the season, click here.
Trail Blazers Betting Odds
NBA Finals: +25000
Win Total: 28.5
Playoffs: Yes (+1100)
Now that Damian Lillard has been dealt to Milwaukee the youth movement can officially begin in Portland. The Trail Blazers have a good stable of young guards, led by rookie Scoot Henderson who will take over for Lillard at point guard. Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe will round out the backcourt for Portland, which could surprise quite a few teams with the explosive guard play they will be able to provide on a nightly basis.
One would assume that offense would be a strength for the Trail Blazers this season, but the few statistics we have to build on do not paint a great picture.
When Sharpe and Simons were on the floor together without Lillard last season, Portland averaged just 110.6 points per 100 possessions, and they had a -7.5 net rating. According to Cleaning the Glass, those lineups ranked in the second percentile of percentage of halfcourt plays (84.6%). In other words, they barely ran. When they did run, they averaged a measly 107.9 points per 100 plays, and they ranked in the fourth percentile in offensive efficiency off live rebounds (91.4). One would assume with the athleticism of Sharpe and Simons on the floor this young duo would push the pace frequently. That should change with Henderson in the mix.
Henderson was a lethal transition scorer in his time with the G-League Ignite. His game is reminiscent of Russell Westbrook in his prime, and Henderson should push this Trail Blazers team to take advantage of its skills in transition this season. His presence means Simons is pushed over to his more natural position of shooting guard. Simons always ran the point when on the floor with Sharpe, and the result was a somewhat clunky offense. When Simons was at the two-guard the Trail Blazers were only outscored by 0.5 points per 100 possessions and they ranked in the 70th percentile in offensive efficiency (117.2).
If this team can run with more frequency, it should be able to mask some of the halfcourt issues that are sure to come with a rookie point guard. Even then, this halfcourt offense should be much better with a guard like Henderson who can drive and dish to shooters.
Simons is a career 38.7% shooter who hit 39.2% of his catch-and-shoot attempts last season. Jerami Grant hit 40.1% of his attempts from deep last season and has improved as a catch-and-shoot threat throughout his career. Sharpe shot 36.0% on 3.5 attempts per game in his rookie season. There is enough on the floor to allow Henderson to work out his own shooting issues, although questions remain about where the shooting is going to come from on this bench.
Should the front office decide to keep their rotation of bigs intact – Ayton and Williams – this could be a much better defensive team as well. Ayton had his worst season as a professional last year in Phoenix, but he has never been a poor rim protector. Williams was in contention for Defensive Player of the Year two seasons ago, and when healthy, he can raise the floor of this defense exponentially. He is also a great lob threat to pair with Henderson on pick-and-rolls.
As of October 2, Malcolm Brogdon is still a member of this team, but it is likely that he is flipped for more assets by this front office. There is a case to be made to keep him around though. The bench depth is extremely questionable for Portland as it stands with Brogdon on the roster. There is also a chance Williams is dealt as well, but he is only 25 years old and fits with the timeline of this roster for now.
Rookies like Kris Murray and Rayan Rupert will play roles for this team as it shifts into a full rebuild, and the presence of so many young players will culminate in volatile results. It won’t be surprising to see Portland pull some big upsets at home when it catches teams on a West Coast road trip this season. It will also make sense when the young Trail Blazers are run out of certain arenas when they hit the road.
Last season Portland was just 39-41-2 ATS and one of the worst teams in the league after it shut down Lillard. They will likely be one of the worst cover teams this season, with some intrigue in certain spots at home throughout the season.
Win Total Analysis
The last two seasons Portland was focused on taking as many losses as possible in order to maximize its draft position. This season the NBA has established rules about resting healthy players. The team has its future star in Scoot Henderson and a haul of assets after trading Damian Lillard. It is safe to say that bettors should not see the same chicanery from the Trail Blazers’ front office this season, but that does not mean this team will be any good.
Aside from being built on a core of players under the age of 25 years old, this team could also ship off any of the veteran pieces it has. Malcolm Brogdon is expected to be flipped for assets at some point, and both Ayton and Williams could be assets too, although the reporting around those two has not been as clear. If one or both of those centers is traded, this will leave the Trail Blazers with an extremely thin frontcourt, and an even worse defense.
The schedule does the team no favors either. Positive Residual ranks their schedule as the seventh-hardest in the NBA. Portland has a massive rest advantage this season (+5), but the team travels the sixth-most miles due to its home location. My win total projection for Portland was 23.5, but that is admittedly low, especially when compared to DraftKings opening total of 28.5 wins. Still, I believe that to be a high number for the Trail Blazers, who could sell quite a few of these roster pieces before or during the season.
Win Total Recommendation: UNDER 28.5