We’ve heard a ton of support, criticism and everything in between about Portland’s chances to upset Los Angeles in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
I’ve scoured the internet and found what experts from several major outlets think. Let’s jump in.
Many of ESPN’s analysts think the Blazers will “challenge” the Lakers. Basically, they think Portland will win at least one game, and some think two games.
Of ESPN’s 17 experts who predicted each NBA Playoff Series, 16 picked the Lakers to win. Shoutout Andre Snellings, who picked Portland in seven games. Nick Friedell is the only other ESPN expert to predict a full seven game series, but he sees LA winning Game 7.
Kirk Goldsberry put together a list of six players and stats “that will shape Round 1” of the playoffs. First up, he looked at Damian Lillard’s long-range shooting and “multi-dribble” three pointers.
The photo below shows what Dame has done this season. He’s made 54 shots from at least 30 feet away, meanwhile the rest of the NBA combined has made 25.
As for “multi-dribble” threes, Lillard is converting those better than anyone in the league.
Goldsberry says Lillard has taken 64% of his 624 three point shots after at least two dribbles. The rest of the NBA combined for 19.9% of three-point shot attempts after multiple dribbles.
James Harden is the only NBA player to attempt more “multi-dribble” three’s than Dame. However, according to Goldsberry, Lillard is more efficient; Dame is canning 41.6% of his multi-dribble three’s while Harden converts 34.9% of his attempts.
Brian Windhorst makes the case that being the No. 1 seed isn’t as big of an advantage for the Lakers due to the circumstances. Obviously, the Lakers won’t get true home court advantage with screaming fans and what not. However, Windhorst also found some Blazer believers around the league.
“[The Blazers] have defensive issues, which is a reason they are the 8-[seed] at the end of the day,” one league scout said. “From an overall talent and experience standpoint, they are probably a 4- or 5-seed masquerading as an 8.”
“They’re just a team that scares you because of Lillard. When you’re the top seed, you don’t like the idea of being scared in the first round,” said one Eastern Conference coach.
Royce Young and Dave McMenamin combined to give their thoughts on the No. 1-vs-No. 8 matchup. For Portland, Young illustrates what we’ve all seen; the Blazers are struggling on defense.
“Before the hiatus, the Blazers were 27th in defensive rating, giving up 113.6 points per 100 possessions. In the bubble, they ranked 20th (out of 22, mind you), giving up 120.4,” Young writes.
Matt Barnes says he’s not sure if the Blazes are a contender, but he thinks they’ll be fun. (Video)
B/R’s Andy Bailey ranked the Blazers 13 of the 16 playoff teams in his power rankings. Meanwhile, Joe Tansey (with no explanation) picked the Lakers in 5.
Sean Highkin believes, like the rest of us, Portland will miss Trevor Ariza against LA. The Blazers don’t really have anyone who can go toe-to-toe with LeBron James as well as Ariza could. Highkin put it plainly, “If Portland is to have a chance, the team’s role players need to outplay L.A.’s.”
He adds, “Trent has shot the lights out and will have to continue to do so (he’d already started to come back to earth after a scorching first four games). The best version of Whiteside will need to show up for a whole series,” and the big one… “they must find a way to survive the Mario Hezonja minutes.”
Jonathan Tjarks examined what all 16 teams will need to do with their lineups. For the Lakers, he ponders how they’ll guard Lillard. He suggests LA “go small” by not using Dwight Howard and/or JaVale McGee as much when switching defenders on the pick-and-roll defense.
Tjarks also asks the million-dollar question for the Blazers defense, how will they guard LeBron? As mentioned above, the loss of Ariza looms large here, but also no Rodney Hood.
Tjarks suggests a few options, including starting Gary Trent Jr. instead of Zach Collins, which begs the question would Terry Stotts even use Hassan Whiteside then? He says with Whiteside pulled out of the rotation, that means more Wenyen Gabriel and Hezonja minutes.
Zach Kram compiled a look at the odds (not the Vegas kind) for each team. Here is how Kram’s model predicts Portland’s chances:
- Reach the Second Round: 14%
- Reach the Third Round: 4%
- Reach the Conference Finals: 0.7%
- Win the NBA Finals: 0.1%
The odds show the Pacers (29%) and 76ers (15%) have better odds than Portland to reach the second round, but somehow they have worse odds to reach the third round (both Indy & Philly 2%) and Conference Finals (both at 0.2%).
Portland also has better odds to win the title than four teams, who all got 0%, (Indiana, Philadelphia, Orlando, Brooklyn). And yes, I know 0.1% is barely more than 0%, but it’s still more!
Skip Bayless, the guy Damian Lillard called a clown last week, gave Portland more bulletin board material with this…
“I am predicting a Lakers sweep of Portland! 1,2,3,4 over and out for the Blazers!” — @RealSkipBayless
RT if you agree pic.twitter.com/S8UmORP3D0
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) August 17, 2020
Truthfully, I only included this so I could also call Bayless a clown.
Colin Cowherd is pumping the brakes on his support for Portland. He still thinks the team has been impressive, but he wants to “revisit his prediction” later.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) August 17, 2020
All four experts picked the Lakers; Sam Quinn and James Herbert in five, while Bill Reiter and Brad Botkin picked LA in six.
Anthony Davis gave his thoughts on Dame.
“He’s balling right now. He’s hot.”
AD speaks on Damian Lillard ahead of Game 1
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 16, 2020
How Many Games Will Portland Win vs. the Lakers?
- 4 - We've got Dame! The Blazers win the series, duh! (51%, 34 Votes)
- 2 - The Blazers can make it interesting (30%, 20 Votes)
- 3 - They'll force a Game 7, but lose there (12%, 8 Votes)
- 1 - They can steal one (6%, 4 Votes)
- 0 - They're getting swept (1%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 67