The NBA’s off-season has finally cooled down, but not after a long-lasting flurry of activity. The entire landscape of the western conference has shifted, what with multiple stars signing for or being traded to various new teams. Amidst their conference rivals, however, the Portland Trail Blazers have remained (for the most part) quiet throughout this free agency period.
Because of this, many have already written the Blazers off as a team that will find it difficult to make the playoffs. Beneath the surface, though, there are plenty of reasons to be both excited and optimistic about their upcoming season. Here’s why the Portland Trail Blazers shouldn’t be slept on.
Portland Trail Blazers Shouldn’t Worry After a Quiet Off-Season
Lack of Activity Could Be Beneficial
General Manager Neil Olshey didn’t resort to making any panic induced trades to try and force a new face into the team. It’s easy to forget that while last season was relatively disappointing, the Blazers (armed with Jusuf Nurkic, post trade deadline) finally started to click towards the end of the season. With Nurkic, they finished the season at a 0.700 win rate (14-6).
In truth, the Bosnian center himself was Portland’s marquee signing, even though it came at the trade deadline in February instead of this offseason. Once he joined, the general unpredictability of the team was replaced with devastating performances that were able to beat the Spurs twice, the Thunder twice, and the Rockets. During this stretch of games, role players on the team who had been struggling season-long were finally able to step up and compliment Nurkic’s anchor role and the star backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Hence, even though the Blazers haven’t made many moves this offseason, they are a team that ended last season on a roll. They’re primed to continue this form into the 2017-18 season. It would have made no sense to disrupt the team’s chemistry by bringing in a player who could potentially do more harm than good to the overall winning record. After all, not many players could have significantly improved the 14-6 form of the Blazers towards the end of the season.
Rivaling Teams Need Time To Gel
The Blazers were unable to lure Carmelo Anthony to Rip City, despite Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum recruiting him both publicly and privately.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum said they each have reached out to Carmelo Anthony in an effort to sell him on the Blazers.
Though many may be impressed with the pieces added to teams like those, their transformation into playoff caliber teams is still incomplete. They’ve finished obtaining talent on paper, but becoming a playoff team is more than just having good players. Minnesota, who perhaps enjoyed the biggest facelift in terms of roster talent this offseason, hasn’t tasted playoff basketball in 13 years. Denver, adding Millsap, hasn’t played in the postseason since 2013.
In order to compete for a playoff spot, the whole mentality of these franchises has to shift into a ‘win’ mode from the top down. The western conference is as unforgiving as it has ever been, so new additions to these teams have to adjust, quickly. It goes without saying that they both have decent chances of making the offseason, but the Blazers don’t have to get over the ‘winless’ basketball hump.
Under the leadership of Lillard, they’ve been in the postseason for four consecutive seasons. Even though they’ve never made it past the second round in this period, the continuity of finishing as a top 8 seed is comfortably ingrained in their organization. This will offer both comfort and strength to the team as the 2017-18 season gets underway.
Set for a Positive Season
In many ways, maintaining the winning nature of the way they finished last season was a better decision than attempting to sign or trade for players who may have done more harm than good to the team. Moreover, the culture established in Portland is that they are indeed a postseason team, and have been for the past few years.
It will have to take very strong showings from their conference rivals, coupled with another disappointing season, to knock the Portland Trail Blazers off their playoff perch.