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ESPN’s Projections Place Blazers Inside Play-In Hunt

ESPN’s latest look at the Western Conference field predicted that the Trail Blazers are likely to land in the play-in field.

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

The injury-depleted Trail Blazers have won five out of their last six games and currently sit in the middle of the Western Conference’s postseason hunt with a sturdy 15-10 record. Earlier this week, following the release of an updated Basketball Power Index (BPI), ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry delivered an updated NBA Playoffs prediction.

Before getting into the predictions, Goldsberry explained how ESPN’s BPI is put together.

This new, enhanced version of BPI is the latest projection system from ESPN Analytics. Now utilizing real plus-minus and player availability data, BPI can properly account for who’s playing in each game and how much their individual efforts contribute to team success on the court.

This lets BPI immediately give precise projections throughout each game day whenever a player is traded, returns from injury or has to sit out.

For the Blazers, ESPN’s updated forecast placed coach Terry Stotts’ squad on top of the third tier of Western Conference teams. Goldsberry explained that the third tier, that encompasses the play-in field, contains a quartet of high-profile players.

There are some fascinating combinations here. Among the most exciting: Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic ending up in a win-or-go-home game before facing the Lakers or Jazz in Round 1. Same goes for Trae Young vs. LaMelo Ball in the East. Bring it on.

Goldsberry concluded his assessment of the third tier by explaining that a prolonged winning streak by any team could drastically alter the current BPI-based predictions.

Of course, the it’s-still-early caveat is important. BPI likes the 13th-place Mavs to eventually make the final playoff bracket with a 64% chance. That tops both the Pelicans (52%) and the Blazers (51%). One surprise hot streak could seriously alter this landscape by the time we even see the NBA’s second-half schedule.

You can read the full set of postseason predictions at ESPN+ (subscription required).