Damian Lillard and McCollum on bench

Dec 6, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and Trail Blazers’ guard CJ McCollum (3) talk during a break in the action in a game against the LA Clippers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

  • The Portland Trail Blazers are without their starting backcourt for the foreseeable future
  • CJ McCollum has been sidelined with a collapsed right lung, while Damian Lillard is dealing with an abdominal injury
  • Portland’s odds to win the Pacific Division have unsurprisingly faded drastically

A bad start to the season for the Blazers keeps getting worse. With no general manager and trade rumors swirling, Portland is now without CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard indefinitely. News broke on Tuesday night that McCollum has suffered a collapsed right lung, while Lillard is recovering from an abdominal issue that has reportedly troubled him for years.

Already outsiders in the NBA Divisional odds, Portland has faded further. FanDuel has them at +3500, representing a remarkable slide having been +600 on opening night. With an 11-14 record on the year, the Blazers are already seven games behind the Utah Jazz in the loss column and two back on the Nuggets.

NBA Northwest Division Odds

Team Odds to Win Division
Utah Jazz -1300
Denver Nuggets +1000
Portland Trail Blazers +3500
Minnesota Timberwolves +6500
Oklahoma City Thunder +49000

Odds as of Dec 8th at FanDuel

Injury Timelines

Lillard has lower abdominal tendinopathy, and as of December 1st, was due to be re-evaluated in 10 days. Still waiting for an update on Lillard’s availability, it’s unclear when he will be able to return, but lower abdominal tendinopathy can often take several weeks. It might ultimately be a case of rest and load management for Lillard through the rest of the season, though how hard he pushes himself may depend on Portland’s competitiveness as we saw with Steph Curry a couple of seasons ago.

McCollum’s outlook is interesting, as a collapsed lung is a pretty rare NBA injury. The original rib contusion can cause pain, but is unlikely to keep him out of action for a prolonged period. Jeff Stotts, of the must-follow Twitter account @InStreetClothes, noted that previous recovery time from this injury has seen players miss an average of 6.5 games.

There are no guarantees with either injury right now, leaving Portland in an incredibly difficult position ahead of games with the Warriors, Timberwolves, Suns and Grizzlies.

Division Is Gone

While Anfernee Simons has made some progress in 2021, Portland is not going to competitive without their backcourt stars. They have a -8.4 net rating in non-Lillard minutes. Their offense is one of the worst in the league without McCollum, a figure that includes minutes with Lillard on the court. Losing one would have potentially been a knockout blow to their season; losing both is a crisis.

No Blazer has a net rating above -3.9 in minutes without Lillard and McCollum. That figure belongs to backup center Cody Zeller in under 60 minutes. Portland needed a pretty significant turn around to even compete for the division this season, but that hope has vanished with this injury news.

Their best hope now is a surprisingly quick return from Lillard and/or McCollum and a push for a Play-In spot in the second half of the campaign. With the West looking shallower than usual this year, they could yet go on a late run and snatch a Play-In berth even if the pair don’t return for a few weeks. It’s an enormous ask, though, given how they have performed so far this season. Their adjusted net rating sits 23rd in the league, worse than the Spurs, Knicks, Timberwolves and Raptors.

Stay Well Away From Betting on Portland

The Blazers had a knack for second half surges under Terry Stotts. Starting slow and playing like an elite team after the All-Star break was common, but that scenario is far-fetched with this group. Chauncey Billups has made some questionable decisions in his first head coaching role, and there are fundamental issues with the construction of this roster.

Odds on Portland to make the playoffs are off the board at the moment. That’s the one market that could have some value with this team, but with such a lack of clarity on the injury front and the possibility for major trades, it needs to be a long price to make much sense at this stage.

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Sam Cox

Sports Writer


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