What Needs To Happen For The Trail Blazers To Have A Shot At The Finals Next Year?
Sunday, May 13, 2018
BRANDON PITZER, Oregon Sports News
We are in what I like to call “no-fans” land when it comes to thinking of the Portland Trail Blazers. Over the years, we have become accustomed to an early exit from the playoffs and are forced to watch teams with championship potential battle it out for the NBA’s highest honor.
But what if things were different? What if instead of our beloved Blazers watching the NBA Finals from their couches, they were actually playing the games? What if Portland hosted an NBA Finals game?
Now that would be spectacular!
It won’t be this year, but here are a few things that could happen that might make that fairy tale a reality.
LeBron James Decides to Retire
Surely such an outrageous act would never happen, but if it did, the Blazers would certainly do everything in their power to usher the great one out of the NBA. You’re probably thinking, “how would this help the Blazers? LeBron is in the East.” Well, I will tell you how.
LeBron James is the greatest player of this generation and is having arguably his greatest offensive season of his career. Did I mention it’s his 15th year in the league and he’s doing all of this at the ripe age of 33? What he’s been able to accomplish at this age is unprecedented and frankly unfathomable.
With LeBron out of the league, every other team immediately has a better chance of winning a championship. It’s simple logic. With LeBron in the league, there are simply teams that cannot win a championship. The Blazers are on that list.
LeBron would eat the Blazers alive in a playoff series. You think Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu are stopping him? Good luck.
The Warriors Breakup
This one will eventually happen, and it could happen as early as this summer with Kevin Durant potentially being able to opt-out after this season. It’s highly unlikely, but as you’ll see, these things are not meant to be realistic.
But let’s say it did happen. Kevin Durant decides he wants to go home to Washington and join forces with Bradley Beal, John Wall, and the corpse of Marcin Gortat. Draymond Green pulls some Ron Artest shenanigans and gets suspended for a season (and drops a rap album, entirely full of diss tracks). And Klay Thompson burns off multiple fingers in a toasting accident.
Steph Curry would still carry that team to the playoffs, but with his health issues, he wouldn’t be able to muscle a team to the finals. With that, the two biggest favorites for the championship are taken care of.
The Rockets Go Cold
This one is arguably the most realistic on the list in that it could actually happen, but also extremely unrealistic in that the Rockets would have to shoot incredibly poorly over a four game stretch. Possible? Yes. Probable? Entirely not.
The issue with the Rockets simply hitting a cold streak with their shooting is that it would have to be sustained over a four game stretch. The Rockets scored fewer than 100 points in only eight games this past season and three of those came in the final six games when the number one seed was all but locked up.
I could have just as easily put that James Harden gets injured, but where is the fun in that? It’s never exciting to root for injuries and despite what the mainstream basketball media would have you believe, James Harden is good for the game of basketball.
Neil Olshey pulls some Danny Ainge-level Mind Tricks
Let’s face it. The Blazers are in a tough spot from a financial standpoint. They’re locked into awful contracts with Evan Turner, Mo Harkless, and Meyers Leonard, none of who have significant value.
If Olshey can make the impossible happen and swindle some unsuspecting team to take on some bad contracts in exchange for decent role players, the Blazers might have a shot.
The ultimate move would be if the Blazers could somehow manage to add another star (i.e. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins) without having to give up CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard. Obviously, this would be about as likely as Meyers Leonard having an impact on a game, but adding another star would certainly put Portland in the championship contender’s conversation.
Gregg Popovich Replaces Terry Stotts
If there’s one thing the Blazers need more than anything, it’s a coach that can construct a gameplan to disrupt an opponent. We all saw it during the Pelicans series.
The Blazers didn’t have an answer for the Pelicans’ defensive scheme that trapped Lillard and McCollum on the perimeter and forced Aminu to create off the dribble (if you missed it, consider yourself lucky. It was brutal.). There is a 0.01% chance that Gregg Popovich continues to run sets that are vulnerable to the Pelicans’ trap for four straight games.
Not only that, but Pop would have brought some seeming washed up veteran out of the depths of basketball hell to shut down Anthony Davis a la Boris Diaw.*
*As a quick aside, here’s my top five choices for the role:
5- Luol Deng
4- Thiago Splitter
3- The Ghost of Boris Diaw
2- Nerlens Noel
1- Chris “The Birdman” Andersen
Don’t ask me how Pop would do it, he just would.
Truly, the Blazers would easily be a championship contender with Gregg Popovich at the helm. It’s crazy what sort of impact a single great mind can have on a basketball team.
There you have it. The five things that would need to happen for the Trail Blazers to win an NBA championship. Obviously, none of these things will actually happen, but as we’ve grown accustomed to the early playoff exits, it’s always nice to dream about greener pastures.