By: Patrick Rogers/Oregon Sports News
The Portland Trail Blazers were dealt some terrible news where Damian Lillard is set to have abdominal surgery that will put him out 6-8 weeks. Joining backcourt teammate CJ McCollum on the IL puts the Blazers in a challenging situation. We’re halfway through the NBA season, and we can already start to see how the playoffs will shape up. The big question on the Blazers fan’s minds is, do we even have a shot at the playoffs now? First, let’s look at the Western Conference standings, fastbreak style with a few comments, as they sit going into the January 12th games along with their Draftkings odds to make the playoffs. Then, I’ll summarize where I think the Blazers will be at the end of the year.
Even with injuries or players missing time, these four teams are a shoo-in to make the playoffs:
Phoenix Suns – Record: 31-9 – Odds to make the playoffs -20,000
-Phoenix looks to defend their Western Conference title on the backs of Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
Golden State Warriors – Record: 30-10 – Odds to make the playoffs -20,000
-Golden State is almost back at full force with Klay Thompson returning from his two-year absence, and James Wiseman set to debut in a couple of weeks.
Utah Jazz – Record: 28-13 – Odds to make the playoffs -20,000
-The Utah Jazz has the perfect balance of offense and defense, spearheaded by the Stifle Tower in Rudy Gobert.
Memphis Grizzlies – Record: 29-14 – Odds to make the playoffs -5,000
The Grizzlies made up for Ja Morant’s absence by going 9-2 while their superstar healed.
This next group is about six games out of the top four and will constantly change for the rest of the year:
Dallas Mavericks – Record: 22-18 – Odds to make the playoffs -2,000
-Bolstered by Luka and Kristaps, the Mavericks could play for the top four, given their top-five defense.
Denver Nuggets – Record: 20-19 – Odds to make the playoffs -400
-The Nuggets feature possibly the single-season record most efficient player ever in MVP candidate Nikola Jokić, but would severely struggle without him.
Los Angeles Lakers – Record: 21-20 – Odds to make the playoffs -475
The Lakers will be interesting, given the drama surrounding that team, and also having LeBron shouldn’t hurt their chances.
Los Angeles Clippers – Record 21-21 – Odds to make the playoffs – Not Available
-The Clippers recently lost Paul George, possibly for the year, while still missing Kawhi Leonard so that they may drop out of this group depending on the trade deadline.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Record: 20-21 – Odds to make the playoffs -115
-Timberwolves feature three exciting players in D’Angelo Russell, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Anthony Edwards but struggle to get any bench production.
Potential Trade Suitors
These teams are poised to jockey for that 10th seed or call it quits and trade players away to contending teams.
Portland Trail Blazers – Record: 16-24 – Odds to make the playoffs – Not Available
-We’ll get to our team below…
San Antonio Spurs – Record: 15-25 – Odds to make the playoffs – Not Available
-The Spurs are in a weird spot for the franchise. Developing Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker seem to be their route, rather than focusing on making the playoffs.
Sacramento Kings – Record: 16-27 – Odds to miss the playoffs -2500
-The Kings have exciting players in De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Buddy Hield but lack depth after those three.
New Orleans Pelicans – Record: 15-26 Odds to miss the playoffs -3500
-The Pelicans are anxiously awaiting Zion Williamson’s return, but Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valančiūnas will have to do for now.
Maybe Next Year?
Oklahoma City Thunder – Record: 13-27 Odds to miss the playoffs -10000
Houston Rockets – Record: 11-31- Odds to miss the playoffs -20000
-The Thunder and the Rockets are teams with some G-League talent but do have notable players. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the Thunder and Christian Wood for the Rockets are both proven NBA talents and should not be overlooked, but these two teams aren’t going anywhere this year.
Where will the Blazers Finish?
I believe that the Clippers will drop out of the playoffs with the Paul George injury. However, seeing as how the records between the 4th to 13th seeds are within seven wins, there indeed is a chance for the Blazers to get into the play-in game. From there, anything is possible to get into the playoffs.
While the Blazers are in the Potential Trade Suitor category, the players mentioned in the trade market are injured and may stay that way through the deadline, practically cementing this team’s lineup for the rest of the year. However, as I mentioned in previous articles, if the Blazers were trying to shed salary or pickup players like Jerami Grant or Ben Simmons, the recent injury to Damian Lillard will change the game plan of the front office.
The Blazers are going into Thursday’s game down Damian Lillard (abdomen), CJ McCollum (collapsed lung), Norman Powell (health and safety protocols), Anfernee Simons (personal), and possibly Larry Nance Jr. (knee). This will be the most challenging part of their schedule that this team will go through all year, making the next four to six weeks imperative. Dennis Smith Jr will have to step up in a big way to keep this team afloat. Rip City has more talent on their roster (once healthy) than the Thunder and the Rockets to miss the play-in game, so if you count that as making the playoffs, they’ll be there at the end of the year.