A darkhorse team rarely wins the NBA Finals.
The last time a team won the Finals and was not the 1 or 2 seed in their conference was the 2010-2011 season.
And that was the Mavericks, who were tied record-wise with the 2 seed Lakers.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to predict a darkhorse winner every year.
To be a darkhorse candidate, the team cannot be one of the favorites.
According to OddsShark, the Nets, Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, Jazz, and Sixers have the best odds.
Those make up six of the top seven teams in the league, with the Suns being the odd man out.
For this article, we will consider those seven teams to be the favorite title contenders.
One team that could be considered a dark horse for the NBA title this year is the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland Only 3 Years Removed from WCF
People seem to forget the Trail Blazers made the Western Conference Finals in 2018-2019.
They got swept by the Golden State Warriors, but so did most Western Conference opponents during their dynastic run.
Most of that team is still around.
— NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) March 26, 2021
Portland has added some key pieces to those five as well.
The role players will be discussed later, but Portland is powered by Lillard.
“Dame” is a certified star who is in his prime.
He is arguably the most feared shooter in the league not named Steph Curry.
And he is a certified MVP candidate this season.
Lillard is averaging nearly 30 PPG and 8 APG while shooting 37% on a ridiculous 11 3PA per game.
When Nurkic and McCollum were both out between games 14 and 38, Lillard upped his play.
He averaged 31 PPG and 8.5 APG while hitting 39% of his 12 3PA per game.
Portland went 14-11 and dropped from 5th to 6th, which could have been much worse.
They remain within striking distance of a top-4 seed thanks in large part to Lillard.
Roster More Balanced
The Trail Blazer team that made the WCF was very top-heavy at the guard position.
Nurkic and Kanter were quality big men, but Lillard and McCollum essentially carried the team.
They were light on the wings and that caused them problems.
This season, Portland has more depth on the wings.
They traded for Robert Covington and signed Derrick Jones Jr in the offseason.
And they acquired Norman Powell at the trade deadline.
FULL TRADE DETAILS:
Gary Trent Jr.
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 25, 2021
Covington and Jones Jr are both terrific wing defenders who can switch across multiple positions.
Powell has developed into a lethal scoring threat.
He’s averaging 19.5 PPG while hitting a staggering 45% of his threes.
Powell will take some of the scoring load off their two guards and provide them another perimeter threat to space the floor.
With Nurkic and McCollum returning from injury, this team could be dangerous if they get healthy.
McCollum, Nurkic, Kanter, Powell, Covington, and Jones Jr are the best supporting cast Lillard has ever had.
Don’t be surprised if they make a run come playoff time.