The 2016-17 NBA season hasn’t been kind to the Portland Trail Blazers. Maintaining an underwhelming 28-36 record, the Trail Blazers have been unable to find any consistency. While they’re still just a spot out of the eighth seed in the Conference, it’s unclear whether they are actually capable of making such a run. Their woes have also been hard to figure out due to their 2015-2016 success; however, this isn’t the first time a team appeared on the rise and then fell off a cliff. The 2017 Portland Trail Blazers are reminiscent of the 2014 New York Knicks.
Underachieving Trail Blazers are Similar to 2014 Knicks
2012-13 New York Knicks
Back in the 2012-13 NBA season, the New York Knicks were a team on the rise. After going 54-28 and securing the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks came out of nowhere to surprise the NBA world. Led by star forward Carmelo Anthony, as well as defensive demon Tyson Chandler and the electric J.R. Smith, the Knicks were arguably the biggest threat to the Miami Heat; however, despite their electric offense, the Knicks were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the up and coming Indiana Pacers. It was disappointing to see a team that was beginning to look like an Eastern Conference powerhouse not even make it to the Conference Finals. What was more disappointing though was how they failed to even reach the postseason the following year.
Knicks 2013-14 Regression
After their second round exit, the Knicks went into the offseason looking to add depth and talent to an already talented squad. They did so by making two key moves. One was acquiring former number one pick Andrea Bargnani from the Toronto Raptors. The seven footer was adept to playing out on the perimeter, and was viewed as a potentially great fit in-between Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler due to his ability to stretch the floor. In addition to Bargnani, the Knicks brought in hometown hero Metta World Peace.
The Knicks brought in the St. John’s product on a one year deal. The Knicks envisioned World Peace bringing some physical and mental toughness to the Knicks; however, both World Peace and Bargnani disappointed in the 2013-14 season.
On one hand, while he wasn’t terrible, Bargnani wasn’t a force to be reckoned with. The Italian big man shot, at the time, a career low from three (27.8%) and despite a starting role, put forth just 13.3 points a game. On the other hand, World Peace struggled to get find any consistency. Starting just one game and averaging just 4.8 points per game, World Peace didn’t exactly bring the gritty play the Knicks were hoping for; World Peace and the Knicks also parted ways midseason via buyout.
The additions of Bargnani and World Peace didn’t work out for the Knicks, but the team as a whole was a mess in 2014.
Whether it was Carmelo Anthony’s upcoming free agency, the decline of Amar’e Stoudemire, or even the disappointing guard play, the Knicks were a mess in 2014. Despite a late season push at the playoffs, the Knicks finished the year with a record of just 37-45, finishing just one game out of the playoffs.
The Knicks 2013 success and 2014 struggles are also very similar to the current struggles of the Portland Trail Blazers.
2015-16 Portland Trail Blazers
Going into last season, many wondered just how competitive the Portland Trail Blazers would be. After losing star big man LaMarcus Aldridge, defensive center Robin Lopez, and two way wings Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo in free agency, the Trail Blazers roster was decimated. As a result, they decided to begin building a youthful core.
The Trail Blazers opted to lock up star point guard Damian Lillard on a five year. Retaining Lillard long term helped keep the young star in Portland. The Trail Blazers then made some under the radar moves. Those moves transpired on both the trade and free agent market.
The Trail Blazers acquired Nets’ center Mason Plumlee, and also traded away forward Nicolas Batum. They dealt Batum to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for guard Gerald Henderson and young big man Noah Vonleh. The Trail Blazers were just as active on the free agent market though.
They brought in big man Ed Davis on a three year deal, as well as two way forward Al-Farouq Aminu on a four year deal. After an offseason of turnover, many expected Portland to be in the NBA’s cellar; however, no such thing occurred.
Defying the odds, the Trail Blazers surprised the NBA world, and had a great 2016 season as whole. Led by Damian Lillard, as well as breakout shooting guard C.J. McCollum, the Trail Blazers produced a 48 win season. That success also carried them into the second round of the NBA playoffs. Unfortunately though, Portland was bounced out by the historic 73 win Golden State Warriors.
Despite the disappointing finish, the Trail Blazers had a surprising and successful season, and many assumed their play would carry into the 2016-17 season. It didn’t.
Trail Blazers 2017 Regression
After a coming out party in 2016, the Portland Trail Blazers went into the offseason looking to help complement a youthful core. They did so by bringing in a couple of veteran presences.
They brought in Celtics two way swingman Evan Turner on a hefty four year/ 70 million dollar deal and Warriors center Festus Ezeli on a two year/ 16 million dollar deal. The Blazers also resigned wings Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless, as well as big man Meyers Leonard; however, despite the additions, the Trail Blazers have performed well below expectations in 2017.
Holding onto the ninth seed in the Western Conference, at just 28-36, the Trail Blazers have been playing like a completely different team. They’ve been lackluster on both ends of the floor, but defensively in particular.
The Trail Blazers are giving up the fifth most points per game in the NBA (110.6). Their defensive play has been key to their woes, but it’s truly mind boggling how this team could take such a step backwards after a more than successful 2016 season.
The 2017 Portland Trail Blazers Struggles are Reminiscent of the 2014 New York Knicks
The 2017 Portland Trail Blazers struggles are hard to figure out, given their successful 2016 season. Their struggles though are reminiscent of the ones the 2014 Knicks underwent after a breakout 2013 year.
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 7: Damian Lillard of Portland Trail Blazers drives the ball against New York Knicks during an NBA game at Madison Square Garden on December 7, 2014 in New York, United States.
(Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu