Portland Trail Blazers Look to Redeem Disappointing Season
Friday, February 03, 2017
Josh Gaunt, Oregon Sports News
The Portland Trail Blazers sit at 22-28, with only 32 games left in the regular season. They currently sit in the 8th seed in the Western Conference standings just above the Denver Nuggets. They’ve also won four out of the last five games which has only happened one other time so far this season. Portland has been up and down all season with inconsistent play, yet they are still in the 8th seed. Portland has waited too long to make a run like it did last year when they won 18 of 22 games from mid-January to early March.
Portland is third in the Northwest division, nine games behind the Utah Jazz and six games behind the seventh seed, Oklahoma City Thunder. Looking back on the beginning of this season, this team expected to be in the mix with the top teams in the Western Conference. However, after starting the season 10-10, Rip City hit a cold inconsistent stretch of play in December where they went 4-11.
That stretch of play has seemingly put them in a hole that has been hard to dig out of as they went 8-7 in January.
The Trail Blazers have two extended road trips left on the schedule where they haven’t had much success this season going 1-4 two different times and 1-3 another time. One bright spot in the schedule so far this season has been the teams play within the division where they are 5-1. They have 10 more divisional games the rest of the season and those games could play a role in whether or not they make a run at a higher playoff seed.
Despite recent success where the team has won four of five, it doesn’t seem likely they will make a run similar to last season. This is a different team who seems to be in a different place, with the rotation continuing to change. Portland has had a lot of trouble playing winning basketball for any consistent stretch so far this season. The hole they dug themselves in December will be too great to propel them into a higher playoff seed and ultimately a step backwards after the development they had last season. Even though making the playoffs would be good experience for this young team, facing the Golden State Warriors in the first round would not be. If Portland fails to make the playoffs it would be an even bigger disappointment for a team with big goals for this season.
The core of this team in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is still intact for now but with a team with its best players in their prime now, it doesn’t make sense to continue having a roster full of young players like Portland has. Evan Turner is the oldest player on the team at 28. 12 of the 15 players on the roster are 26 or younger. In order for the Blazers to maximize the prime of both Lillard and McCollum they should bring in other pieces that aren’t all on the same career trajectory when it comes to age. Veteran leadership on the floor makes a difference in this league, the difference between winning and losing. Next season Portland should consider bringing in some more experienced players who can help a young core win close games and avoid lengthy voids of inconsistent play. The time continues to tick on the prime of Portland’s best players.