Phoenix at Portland
Time: 9 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: POR -12
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Phoenix Suns have lost 10-straight games and possess the second-worst record in the Western Conference at 22-54. Phoenix is just 9-30 on the road where it will travel to face Damian Lillard and the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers as 12-point underdogs, in what should still be a high scoring game with a ‘222’ point over/under. The game will air at 9 PM (Central) on NBA League Pass Saturday night.
This game may be mostly meaningless for the Suns, as they are in a “Tank-a-Thon,” but the game is of the utmost importance for the Blazers. Portland maintains a two-game lead over Denver for the West’s final playoff berth, and even though the proposition involves either team drawing the vaunted Golden State Warriors, both Portland and Denver are fighting hard for that final spot. The Blazers have been a far better team since its trade deadline acquisition of Josef Nurkic, however, and Portland has won eight of its past 10 SU, including its past five.
The Blazers are 21-15 at home and have gone 24-21 against fellow Western Conference teams this season.
But the difference has largely been Nurkic. He has given Portland a very legitimate back-to-the-basket presence, is a good passer, and has entirely changed the look of the Blazer offense, which was very high-post focused while previous staring center Mason Plumlee was in Portland. Nurkic appears to be the better player of the two, and to boot, the Blazers acquired a first round pick from Denver along with him. Nurkic has averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.15 blocks/steals per game in 29.2 minutes a night while posting a PER of 21.1, which ranks only behind team leader Damian Lillard’s 23.9.
Lillard has been nothing short of sensational since suffering his second-consecutive All-Star snub, and the point guard is averaging 29.5 points and six assists over Portland’s last 10 games while shooting 50.8 percent from the field. Lillard had 31 points and 11 assists in Portland’s surprising 117-107 win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night, and he should be ready to wreck havoc once again after getting a full day’s rest since then.
The Phoenix Suns are chalk full of prospects, but the team is clearly making little effort to win after shutting its star Eric Bledsoe down to rest the remainder of the season. The Suns will be vying for a top pick in the 2017 draft lottery, and should Phoenix, in fact, snag a top-three pick, it might end up moving away from Bledsoe, anyway. Eric Bledsoe is a semi-star, but he is on a max-contract and is a game-changer who would garner the Suns a nice return in any potential deals.
That would allow the team to hand the reigns to Devin Booker, who made major news already this season by dropping an incredible 70-point game against the Boston Celtics. In addition to Booker, the Suns also have Brandon Knight and Tyler Ulis to develop, as part of a pretty loaded backcourt rotation.
Rookie forwards Marquese Chris and Dragan Bender both look promising, which helps cushion the blow of former No. 3 overall pick Alex Len appearing to be a likely bust. The Suns still have veteran Tyson Chandler on the roster, but another promising youngster Alan Williams, has take a lot of the former Defensive Player of the Year’s minutes.
The Suns have some nice pieces and are likely even in a more favorable situation than the L.A. Lakers, but with a team that is making so little an attempt to win, the double-digit spread set in favor of Portland by NBA Oddsmakers is likely pretty accurate for this one.