The 2018-19 NBA regular season may bring a drop in performance for the Portland Trail Blazers. ESPN analyst Kevin Pelton released his forecast for all 30 NBA franchises, ranking the Blazers 8th in the Western Conference with 42 total wins [insider subscription required].
Pelton explains the reason for the backslide:
The Blazers’ offseason makeover of their bench, along with regression to the mean, is responsible for a projected drop from last season’s 49 wins -- good for third in the West. Seth Curry (projected minus-1.4 RPM) doesn’t rate as well as Napier, while Davis’ departure means more minutes for second-year center Zach Collins (minus-1.9).
Pelton has the Blazers below the 7th-seed New Orleans Pelicans, projected with 44.1 wins, and just above the 9th-seeded Los Angeles Lakers with 41.2. The Lakers signed LeBron James in free agency. Their relatively low ranking is based on James’ offensive RPM dropping precipitously when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, assuming a similar drop in the transition to L.A. Pelton does hedge on that prediction.
While LeBron’s offensive RPM did, in fact, take a huge hit when he joined the Miami Heat in 2010-11 (from plus-8.7 to plus-4.8), he’s still likely to beat that projection. If James drops only to a plus-4.0 [from plus-5.0], the Lakers would move into eighth...