It stands to reason that the sixteen teams that make the playoffs every season are usually the sixteen best. Sometimes an 8-seed slips in over a slightly better team, but 82 games are a good barometer for which teams deserve to play for the title.
If that is the case, the Portland Trail Blazers could learn a thing or two from some of the sixteen teams that made it that far.
Oklahoma City Thunder: A star carries you. A team of good role players may work well together, but it is that rare superstar that will take your team to new heights. The Thunder have that in Kevin Durant, and even without Russell Westbrook for the rest of the playoffs, they are never in a bad situation because Durant is there at the end of the day. The question for Portland is whether LaMarcus Aldridge or Damian Lillard can be THAT player.
Memphis Grizzlies: Control the middle. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are giving the Clippers fits on both ends of the floor, clogging up the middle and rebounding everything in sight. What the Grizzlies are doing should be a clear message to Portland: if you do not keep J.J. Hickson, get someone who can repeat his blocking and rebounding numbers. Points are nice from your center, but shot blocking and rebounding from that position wins titles.
Miami Heat: Win the games you are supposed to win. Losing to a team with a pile of superstars is one thing. But when the competition is outmatched, put the boot on their throat and never let go. If you can keep the losses versus bad teams down, you can afford losing to the big teams, and relieve a lot of pressure.
New York Knicks: Understand what injuries give and take. Amare Stoudamire is not the same player he was in Phoenix. Injuries robbed him of a lot of that power, and he has been unable to take the court against Boston. But when he plays as a role player, giving scoring bursts and keeping himself healthy, he can make the difference in a series. Portland has had many problems with injuries, and understanding how to use a player returning from injury is key to good team chemistry.
San Antonio Spurs: Keep the squad together. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili have played together for ten years. They can read each other's moves and predict their actions before they occur. When you have that level of teamwork, stopping them becomes a nearly impossible task, especially in basketball. If the Blazers can keep Aldridge, Lillard, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum together, they can generate that level of chemistry.
Los Angeles Lakers: Do not mortgage the future for one or two players. The Lakers potentially sabotaged themselves for years to come by acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, and found their stay in the playoffs to be a short one. Even if Kobe Bryant had been able to play, the odds of toppling the Spurs were not in their favor. If a player like a Carmelo Anthony or a Deron Williams becomes available, losing too much, in either players, picks, or team composition, can do more harm than good.