I know I know. "What about Lebron?" "The Nets are a super team!" "The Jazz are better" "Still have to beat the Suns, Clippers, Nuggets, and/or Warriors". Listen, I get that. But hear me out. A future bet on the Portland Trail Blazers to win the NBA Championship right now is at +6600. Bet $100 and win $6,600.
Damian Lillard has essentially led this team to a 23-16 record by himself. After a 50-point performance last night in a comeback against the Pelicans, Lillard is now leading the league in LITERALLY every clutch category.
CJ McCollum finally returned from injury this past week which will only help Dame carry the load. Now if CJ was the only piece missing it might not be a big deal. But, do you wanna hear the list of active power forwards and centers on the Blazers roster right now? Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter. That is it. That's the list. Robert Covington, Nassir Little, and Derrick Jones Jr are all small forwards who have been forced to play PF and C in the absence of all their big men.
Jusuf Nurkic is the Blazers normal starting center. He gets overshadowed by Dame and CJ, but Nurkic is the third most important player on the team. His combination of size, speed, strength, passing ability, and swagger brings a lot to table for Portland. No disrespect to Carmelo Anthony, Robert Covington, and Gary Trent Jr but Nurkic makes their offense run like a well-oiled machine. He sets great screens for their shooters and brings toughness as a center on defense that Kanter just doesn't have.
Nurkic played 12 games this season before fracturing his wrist in January. He should be returning in the next 2-4 weeks according to reports.
Zach Collins' injury is a bit more severe than Nurkic. There is no timetable for him to return from ankle surgery, but the young big man could return for the playoffs which would give this team another big man that can stretch the floor; a dangerous weapon alongside Lillard and McCollum. During the 2019-20 season he was averaging 7 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Harry Giles III is the most intriguing and unknown of the 3 injured big men for Portland. He's only 22 years old but has a complicated injury history. Before his strained his left calf, he was carving out a legitimate role in the Blazers rotation. He was playing between 10-20 minutes per game and was starting to help them out, especially from a rebounding standpoint.
Last season before the COVID-19 shutdown, he had scored in double figures in 7 straight games. He continued to play better in the bubble, but again was derailed by an injury this season. If he can return from injury (which is supposed to happen in the next week or so) and find a rhythm he could be a great asset for the Blazers while they wait for Nurkic to return.
So Portland is tied for 5th in the Western Conference standings even with all these injuries. They are going to need reinforcements as they have the third toughest remaining schedule in the league. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are never going to quit. We know when games come down the stretch they are going to be in a position to win. With their wing shooting and defense fortified with Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr, the Blazers could make noise in the playoffs.
Last season in the bubble they lost to the eventual-NBA Champion Lakers in 5 games. 2 years ago they lost to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. They are no stranger to the big moment. Damian Lillard has long been disrespected. Would a championship finally bring him respect?
At +6600 the odds are almost too good not to take. Are they better than teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Suns, Jazz, or Nuggets? No. Could they beat all those teams listed? Yes. If they get hot and healthy at the right time they could make a run at a title.