The Portland Trail Blazers have a playoff streak on the line in Orlando, and if you ask the folks at ESPN, the odds are in their favor to make it seven years straight.
On Wednesday, ESPN shared postseason odds for Western Conference teams participating in the NBA’s return. According to the article: “Zion Williamson and the Pelicans were the favorites here in our March forecast, but now it looks like a tight race between New Orleans, Portland and Memphis.”
Here are the full odds:
1) Portland Trail Blazers — 35.3%
2) Memphis Grizzlies — 32.4%
3) New Orleans Pelicans — 29.4%
4) San Antonio Spurs — 2.9%
With eight games to go and a new format in place, the question really isn’t who is the favorite but why name Portland?
Despite being given top odds, Portland isn’t in the driver’s seat. After struggling much of the year, the Blazers enter the league’s Orlando experiment sitting 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies for the current eighth seed, while the Kings and Pelicans are also 3.5 games back—the Spurs down by an even four contests.
Health has to be the starting point. After playing without Jusuf Nurkic for the entire year and Zach Collins for the majority, having both back gives the Blazers maybe the most room of any group to show tangible improvement.
Damian Lillard being a lowkey but legitimate top-five player this season plays a big role as well. He was the hottest player in the league shortly before the shutdown, and having the best player in the competing field gives the Trail Blazers an added advantage.
As ESPN also noted, “the NBA using win percentage gives them an edge in tiebreakers.”
According to the league’s revised format, here’s how the playoff chase will work for Portland:
- If the Blazers finish the year more than four games behind the eighth seed, they do not qualify for the postseason.
- If they finish ninth and within four games of eighth, they earn a berth into a play-in tournament where they will have to defeat the eight seed twice in a row to qualify for the playoffs.
- If Portland finishes the regular season as the No. 8 team but is within four games of ninth, the team must only win once in the play-in tournament.
- If the Blazers somehow earn the eighth seed by more than four games, they are automatically into the postseason.