The Portland Trail Blazers have been the subject of some hot takes by Western Conference prediction teams in recent weeks, with experts pinning the squad as high as first and as low as ninth. ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz joined the chorus on the Lowe Post with Zach Lowe this week, listing the Blazers as one of the five teams he was confused about.
However, his confusion wasn’t directed at the team, but at the experts, namely his ESPN colleague Kevin Pelton, whose predictions positioned Portland as the ninth seed.
“I look at the projections, I think these are intelligent people running intelligent models.”
“They all have them as a middling play-in team. I look at a team that basically has the best pick and roll player in the league, in Damian Lillard, who is going to be an MVP candidate this year. CJ McCollum who would be an All Star in the East every year.”
“They had weaknesses, defensively, I think they fortified them. I know Covington is not the one-through-five defender everyone thinks he is, as demonstrated in the OKC series, but he’s freaking good. He also provides range, they are stacked in the front court with a lot of interchangeable parts.”
“And Nurkic is back, I just think they have like five playable bigs in various contexts.”
“I think they can go big this year, I think they can go small. There’s range. Gary Trent Jr. was a revelation, I just see a lot of strengths and not that many weaknesses.”
“And so why am I seeing them projected eighth through ninth when I see them as a top four potential seed.”
Lowe chimed in agreeing with Arnovitz, claiming he wouldn’t be surprised if the Blazers finished third in the Western Conference while heaping praise on Jusuf Nurkic.
“I like their offseason, I think they have some good depth, particularly when Zach Collins comes back.”
“I think Nurkic is underrated, I think Nurkic is really really good. In the east he would be an All Star candidate. He’s just not going to reach that level in the west because it’s too good. He plays really well off Dame and CJ.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they finished third in the west. I think they are top six so outside of the play-in. If they were in the play-in tournament to me that would qualify as a disappointment.”
The Blazers discussion starts at the 27-minute mark. Listen here.