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GBB NBA Over/Under Preview: Orlando Magic & Portland Trail Blazers

CJ McCollum will hope to build off of his breakout season as the Trail Blazers attempt a return to the playoffs for the fourth straight season

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Site Manager’s Note - Welcome to the inaugural Grizzly Bear Blues NBA Preview Over/Under Challenge! Think you are smarter than twelve of our staff members? Take the challenge by posting your over/unders in the comments section every day with the corresponding teams. We will keep track over the course of the season, and the commenter(s) who beats our overall over/under projections at the end of the season will win a Fan Essentials box!

The GBB Staff taking part in this challenge are-

Joe Mullinax - Site Manager

Matt Hrdlicka - Senior Features Writer

Kevin Yeung - Senior Features Writer

Chase Lucas - Features Writer

Mac Trammell - Features Writer

Brandon Conner - Features Writer

Jonathan Concool - Game Coverage Writer

Collin Huguley - Game Coverage Writer

Austin Reynolds - Game Coverage Writer

Corban Ford - Game Coverage Writer

Jonah Jordan - GBB Boots on the Ground Editor

Adam Rubrum- GBB Boots on the Ground Editor

Today, Austin will break down the Orlando Magic and Portland Trail Blazers.

ORLANDO MAGIC: Vegas Prediction - 36.5 Wins

Overall GBB Staff Predictions:

  • Six take the over (Lucas, Hrdlicka, Ford, Concool, Conner, Huguley), six take the under (Mullinax, Reynolds, Jordan, Trammell, Rubrum, Yeung)
  • Average projected record- 36-46
NBA: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Players to watch and prediction: Since star center Dwight Howard was traded following the 2011-12 season, the Orlando Magic have transformed into perennial cellar dwellers, totaling 68 total wins across three seasons from 2012 to 2015. Yes, that is less victories than the Golden State Warriors amassed last year alone.

However, as the fruits of the long rebuilding process finally began to take shape a season ago, as the young Magic finished with an improved 35-47 record, good for 11th in the Eastern Conference, and the front office thought it as good a time as any to make a move to win now and jump into the playoffs. In the off-season the team flipped leading scorer Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the pick that would become Domantas Sabonis to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for talented big man Serge Ibaka.

Serge Ibaka is the embodiment of the new age NBA. He’s a long 6’10” forward who’s established himself as one of the most feared shot blockers in the NBA over the last several seasons. On the other end of the floor, he’s a legitimate three-point threat, shooting 35 percent from distance over his seven-year NBA career. And while Ibaka shot just 32 percent from range a season ago, he was at 38 and 37 percent the two previous seasons, so this is likely more of an anomaly than a cause for great concern.

Ibaka is certainly the most exciting addition to the team, but perhaps more interesting to watch is how the team’s young back court will perform. We already know what we’re getting with Evan Fournier, who has thrived as a scorer next to Oladipo over the last two seasons, but now with Oladipo gone the front office has placed its faith in third-year point guard Elfrid Payton and sophomore two-guard Mario Hezonja.

Payton started 69 games last season while Hezonja averaged just short of 18 minutes off the bench, but both players will now be asked to take on a much larger role in the offense, particularly Payton, who will now have to run the offense at all times instead of deferring some of the point guard duties to Oladipo.

This is going to be a fun team to watch, and a starting five of Payton, Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Ibaka, and double double machine Nikola “Vucci Mane” Vucevic is nothing to scoff at, but there are going to be growing pains on this team. Fournier is the third most experienced member of that starting five, and he’s only played four years in the NBA. Factor in bench concerns and the loss of the team’s leading scorer, and it seems that it’s going to take a bit of magic for this young squad from Orlando to make it to the postseason. It was a close call, but I have the Orlando Magic penciled in for the under with 34 wins.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Vegas Prediction - 46.5 Wins

GBB Overall Staff Predictions:

  • Five take the over (Mullinax, Ford, Concool, Trammell, Rubrum), seven take the under (Lucas, Hrdlicka, Reynolds, Conner, Jordan, Huguley, Yeung)
  • Average projected record: 45-37
NBA: Preseason-Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Players to watch and prediction: When All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge bolted for San Antonio last summer, the Trail Blazers were expected to experience a massive drop-off. Instead, Portland was the most surprising team of the season, shattering Westgate’s 26.5 over/under number en route to a 44-win season and first round playoff victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

This was in large part due to C.J. McCollum’s breakout season, in which the third-year shooting guard averaged 20.8 points and 4.3 assists in 34.8 minutes of action per contest, all while scorching opposing defenses from distance to the tune of a 41.7 percent conversion rate on 5.9 three-point attempts per game.

McCollum could experience some regression from a shooting season as hot as last year’s, but he’s the real deal and is the team’s number two man behind point guard Damian Lillard. The problem for the Blazers is that outside of those two star guards, there’s very little there in terms of scoring, especially in the front court.

Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, and Mason Plumlee are fine rotation players, but none of them are going to go out and get you buckets. The team signed Evan Turner this summer who has shown flashes throughout his six-year career, but he’s been inefficient and can’t shoot. He may be able to thrive in Portland, where Lillard and McCollum will be able to take care of the bulk of the shooting duties, and Turner did have a quietly solid season in Boston last year, but he’s not a player I feel great about putting my trust in on a consistent basis. The team is hoping that Allen Crabbe can be the team’s next big breakout star after giving him a $75 million contract this off-season, but he’s still unproven despite scoring 14.2 points per 36 minutes on 46 percent shooting last season.

The Blazers massively outperformed their Vegas number last season, and history says that means they’re in for at least a little bit of regression. That alone is a good enough reason to make the under the safe bet, but it becomes even easier when you think about how much this team relies on Lillard and McCollum. If even one of those players misses significant time this team can’t make up for the lost firepower, unless Crabbe has a season similar to McCollum’s last year. I’m taking the under on the Portland Trail Blazers, and predicting that they’ll finish with a record of 42-40.

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