To The Bitter End
The NBA Regular Season has come to a close, and with it the Portland Trail Blazers were nowhere near earning a spot in the playoffs, ending their season with a 33-48 record, the 5th-worst team overall. Sadly, this did not come as a shock to those who paid close attention to the second half of the team’s season, dealing with various injuries and inexperienced coaches and staff.
Head Coach Chauncey Billups was candid about the hardships faced this past year, saying “I think you all know how I feel about losing and about this. I don’t like it, you know. I don’t like it. So I’m glad it’s over and hope that I’m never in this position again. We’re going to try to do everything necessary so hopefully that none of us are in this position again because it’s no fun, man.”
The Blazers’ All-Star Damian Lillard had an impressive run this year, joining the 70-point club, and constantly scoring upwards of 40 points. However, the success of a team does not come down to just one player. It is a team game and a team effort.
Lillard has stayed true to the Trail Blazers for 10 years and through those years had seasons and teammates that looked like they could take it all the way to the big stage. They had eight consecutive years where they earned a spot in the post-season, even going to the Western Conference Finals in 2019.
The strong talent they had surrounding Lillard like CJ McCollum were traded to other teams and replaced with younger and less experienced players. Although these incoming players have talent, they are young and inexperienced, and that typically goes hand-in-hand with several development years before they are fully ready to lead their team back into the playoffs.
After their final game, which was a loss against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, Lillard spoke to the media echoing this sentiment. “I don’t have much of an appetite for bringing in guys two and three years away from really going after it,” he said, “This is not a secret. I want a chance to go for it. And if the route is to do that, then that’s not my route.”
Head Coach Billups knows a major change is needed after how this season played out, saying “If we want to actually do right by the best player in the history of this organization, we have to be aggressive.”
Can They Build It?
One silver lining the Blazers can hold onto coming in 26th in the League is their strong potential and opportunity to truly reshape next season’s team through the draft.
They will have two first-round picks, a second-round pick, and a looming chance at an extra pick through the NBA Draft Lottery. They also have very strong players they will continue to develop in guard Anfernee Simons and their rookie Shaedon Sharpe.
Bringing in young new talent is key to the future of teams. But let’s be clear; in order to make next year vastly different than this year, proven veteran talent will need to be brought in to propel this team to another playoff run, sooner rather than later. Blazers’ General Manager Joe Cronin said, “Timeline-wise, it’s time for us to start moving quicker toward having a roster that’s ready to compete at the highest level.”
I couldn’t agree more, Joe.
With all the information regarding injuries, inexperienced staff, and what was expected of this team from the beginning of last season, I think a C grade is sufficient for Portland. Yes, they were the 5th worst team, however, they were not expected to even make it to the postseason. They virtually accepted their fate weeks ago, pulling Lillard out from the last ten games of the season, and only one of which resulted in a win.
It could definitely have been better. The struggle that ensued on this team was definitely an awakening moment for players. Most importantly, true changes need to be made to the roster to keep this from happening again next year.
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