Where do the Blazers go from here?
It’s starting to get to that point of the season where the Portland Trail Blazers are becoming in danger of not turning thing around.
It’s only mid-December, but the Blazers are just 10-16, and in a rugged Western Conference that has left 50-win teams out of the playoffs in the past, that’s concerning.
To be fair, it probably won’t take 50 wins to earn a bottom playoff seed in the West this year, but Portland sure isn’t going to get in on a 32-win pace.
So, what exactly should the Blazers do?
We have heard people suggest they could make a move for someone like Kevin Love or Danilo Gallinari, but neither of those players would solve Portland’s defensive woes (the Blazers rank 20th in defensive efficiency).
Jusuf Nurkic is likely due back at some point this season, but he is coming off of a major broken leg injury, so even if he does return, you probably can’t expect much from the big man.
Really, Portland is kind of stuck in the middle right now. It has some really good pieces like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but the rest of the roster isn’t good enough to legitimately contend as currently constructed.
Yes, Carmelo Anthony has given the Blazers a nice little boost, but it’s crystal clear that they need a heck of a lot more than just Anthony.
Portland is also really thin up front with Nurkic out and Zach Collins out until around March, putting a rather heavy onus on Hassan Whiteside.
But here is the question: should the Blazers buy at the trade deadline? Or should they actually start selling off some pieces to start a quasi-rebuild?
McCollum, for example, is under contract through 2021 and could serve as a very valuable piece to a contender. Of course, his $27.6 million salary this season complicates matters, but he is someone Portland could consider moving.
But if the Blazers go that route, they are then faced with potentially upsetting Lillard, which is certainly not something they would want to do regardless of the fact that they just locked him up with an extension.
See? It’s a minefield.
Portland isn’t good enough to contend, and its trade flexibility is rather limited.
Let’s even say the best-case scenario occurs and the Blazers turn things around and make the playoffs. Then what? They lose in the first round, and we start this discussion all over again come summertime.
Portland had a great year last season, making it to the Western Conference Finals, but in reality, this really is a treadmill team that has reached its peak.
Lillard is fantastic, and McCollum is a terrific guard, but the rest of the roster is clearly flawed, and outside of trading off some of its top pieces, there isn’t much the Blazers can do.
I certainly don’t envy general manager Neil Olshey, who will have some very difficult decisions to make between now and February. Does Portland try to add some guys? Or does it take the smarter (and more painful) route and sell at the deadline?
I think Olshey knows the answer, and Blazers fans do, too.
It’s just a hard realization to accept.