Philadelphia at Portland
Time: 9 PM CST (NBA TV)
Spread: POR -2
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Portland Trail Blazers are 3-2 after winning its last game 102-99 over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Portland returns home to host the Philadelphia 76ers in the second half of an NBA TV Saturday doubleheader. The Blazers are 2-point favorites in the game, which will tip-off at 9 PM CST. The point total is set at 224.5 according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
The Blazers did small amounts of tinkering during the offseason, but those few moves have all mostly paid off. Hassan Whiteside has started all five games at center this season, and though his offensive role is somewhat diminished since his time in Miami, he has been effective nevertheless. Whiteside has tallied 12.8 points and 12.2 rebounds per game while shooting 64 percent from the field and posting a PER of 22.20, which trails only team leader Damian Lillard.
Lillard, for his part, has been one of the league’s best. The superstar point guard is averaging 29.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game. CJ McCollum averages 23 points per game, but he has struggled with turnovers (3.4 per game) and is shooting just 40 percent from the field. McCollum has connected on 42.9 percent of his 5.6 threes per game, and the Blazers have a bit of a new look now that Anfernee Simons is seeing playing time behind Lillard and McCollum.
Simons has averaged 17 minutes per game off the Blazers bench, posting eight points and 1.4 assists per game. Though not making a massive impact, he has definitely passed the eye-test, and in time, he will be the “third guard” in the rotation with Lillard and McCollum, perhaps with the trio seeing nearly equitable playing time (though Lillard will for sure see 36-plus).
Swingman Rodney Hood has been another nice addition, adding some shooting and essentially replacing the role that was played by Evan Turner. Zach Collins has stepped in to replace Al-Farouq Aminu as the starter, and he did well through three games before suffering an injury that has held him out of the last two games. Collins showed promise in the postseason, so the Blazers extended both his contract and that of Caleb Swanigan. Collins is the one with the real promise to be a starting-4 for a long time, though. He is a good defensive presence with his rim protection and an excellent finisher on the offensive end.
Lastly, the Blazers also added former Orlando Magic and New York Knick Mario Hezonja. A former No. 5 overall pick by Orlando, Hezonja has yet to establish his niche and confidence now in his fourth season. At times, Hezonja looks like the phenom he was regarded to be, but at other times he utterly disappears from games. In five games, Hezonja has played 20 minutes per game and averaged 4.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 steals/blocks per game, but for a shooter, he has hardly been knockdown. Hezonja is hitting just 33 percent from the floor and just 25 percent from three. He has to become a much more deadly shooter to continue to earn the minutes already allotted to him.
The Philadelphia 76ers will be without starting center Joel Embiid for both tonight’s game and the next game. He got into a fight with Karl-Anthony Towns and both received two-game suspensions. With his absence, it is unclear what the Sixers will do to its starting lineup. The team is somewhat short on depth, but it may be that it turns to Kyle O’Quinn at the center spot. Another option is sliding-over power forward Al Horford and starting Mike Scott at power forward. Whatever the options, losing Embiid is a massive loss to the Sixers. Prior to the suspension, Embiid had been in his full All-Star form early: 23.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.0 blocks/steals per game with a PER of 33.77—silly high.
Tobias Harris has found his rhythm in Philly after struggling in the postseason last year. He is averaging a second-best 18.8 points per game and also making a big difference on the glass where he averages nine rebounds per game. Harris adds three assists and 1.5 steals, but he has had some turnover issues (2.8 per game). Even so, the forward is shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 34.8 (passable) percent from three-point range.
Ben Simmons still has yet to attempt a three, speaking of them. He had said prior to this season he would look to shoot the three if it were there, but it clearly either has not been there, or that was a lie. Simmons’ game is much like Giannis Antetokounmpo’s, in the sense that it succeeds in spite of not having a jumper. Simmons is 54.7 percent from the floor, so his shot selection is good— even if it does not include many long jumpers. He is averaging 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and eight assists per game this season.