Portland Trail Blazers at Brooklyn Nets
Time: 2:30 CT, NBA League Pass
Spread: POR -4
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Portland Trail Blazers are 7-7 but have lost three straight. Portland will look to get back on track as it travels to face the Brooklyn Nets as 4-point favorites in Sunday afternoon action on NBA League Pass. The Nets are 4-8, but are 3-2 at home this season.
Portland has been something of a disappointment after returning all its core players from a team that finished with 48-wins and shockingly returned to the postseason following an offseason which saw the team lose four of its five starters. C.J. McCollum has blossomed into a star alongside Lillard, who was snubbed of an All-Star selection last season and could reasonably suffer the same fate again in a star-studded Western Conference.
Lillard is averaging 28.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while posting a PER of 24.7, so to see him miss the game this season would be a surprise to say the least. McCollum chips in 22.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists as well. The new faces have done well: Maurice Harkless has gone from a seldom used reserve in Orlando to a full-time starter and great “three and D” player. Allen Crabbe has become a major scorer off the bench, though he is shooting just 7.4 field goals per game this season (and that has to increase).
Mason Plumlee has become Portland’s version of Joakim Noah in averaging 4.6 assists per game from the 5-spot, often functioning in a high post role and serving as the most valuable of Portland’s multi-big attack. The Blazers still do not even have Festus Ezeli aboard yet, so this frontcourt will only become deeper.
Free agent acquisition Evan Turner has been a huge dsappointment and is shooting just 35.2 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three while posting a PER of 7.8. Meyers Leonard has been good, but his minutes have been limited to 14.7 per contest as Plumlee sees the lion’s share of the time at the 5-spot (26.8 per game).
All in all, Portland is a team that has a number of players who could produce more, and then this team has the depth to compete in the West. Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh both have been relative non-factors, and both have the talent to do far more. Al-Farouq Aminu has appeared in just eight games and has not been playing at all recently, after having a good season last year in which he averaged 10 points and six boards per game. He has been battling a calf injury, but is travelling wtih the team and the Blazers hope he will be available soon. With a healthy Aminu and Ezeli, this team suddenly has the depth to compete with the better teams in the Conference.
Brooklyn, legitimately, has been over-achieving at 4-8.
The Nets are in a horrid team situation due to Mikhail Prokhorov crippling the team’s payroll and jettisoning its draft picks, and Brook Lopez has had to be brilliant just to keep Brooklyn in games. He has mostly responded to the challenge in averaging 20.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but the Nets second best player is Jeremy Lin—who is reasonably the third for fourth guard in the rotation on a contending team.
Be that as it may, Lin has looked good in his role.
The Harvard product is averaging 15 points, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game while posting a 22.0 PER. But no one doubted Lin’s offensive abilities necessarily. It is his defensive acumen, along with his fundamentals, that have always been in question.
Bogan Bogdanovic has been functioning well as a shooter, and while inconsistent has certainly had his big nights. The 6’10” 2-guard basically can play any position on the court except the 1-spot, but it is unclear if he would be a factor on any well-constructed, good teams. He allows opponents to shoot 7.2 percent better against him than their season averages and that figure increases to 29 percent within nine-feet. Additionally, Bogdanovic attempts nearly one-third of his shots early (before 15) in the shot clock while averaging just 1.1 assists per game. Patience is not his calling card.
The Nets have also got strong play out of guard Sean Kilpatrick, who is averaging 14.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Kilpatrick is in his second year out of Cincinnati, and he had 10 points and two assists in the 124-105 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. Kilpatrick had 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the 122-104 win over the Phoenix Suns Nov. 12, and he is a good rotation player who plays hard. That is what has kept the Nets afloat: some shooters and guys fighting to stay in the NBA and eventually obtain bigger roles. That, and Jeremy Lin has been basically aching for a chance to be a key contributor since his “Linsanity” run in what seems like ages ago now.