It seems like each and every Blazers season ends the same way for fans in Portland. They miss the playoffs, make the playoffs, and get bounced in boring fashion. They make the playoffs and lose in an excruciatingly painful manner. Right now, the first option seems to be the most realistic for the Blazers as they sit in 10th place, three games under .500, and winners of just four of their last six.
This dull, eh, whatever of a season landed the Blazers on Bleacher Report’s “Most Disappointing Teams” list for this season. Their submission reads as follows:
“The Portland Trail Blazers have a losing record and the No. 27 defense in the league. Those are two objectively disappointing facts, and they’re all the more dispiriting because the Blazers have been professing their intention to build a contender around Damian Lillard from the moment Joe Cronin took over general manager duties last May. Following a trade deadline that actually saw Portland lose veteran talent in the form of Gary Payton II and Josh Hart, the party line was the same.”
It goes on to include a quote from Cronin about how his ultimate goal was to build a championship contender around one of the game’s great players of the last decade in Lillard and how they thought they’d land someone at the deadline this season but came up empty.
After that embarrassing quote where it seems like no one in the organization will take responsibility for the lackluster play, poor roster management, and overall underachievement, the blurb went on to say:
“The gap between what Portland set out to accomplish and what it achieved is wide, not to mention confusing. When the Blazers added Jerami Grant on draft night and later signed Payton, it seemed as though they had directly addressed the defensive issues that figured to plague a roster built around two small, defensively shaky guards and the not-so-mobile-anymore Jusuf Nurkić. Grant’s versatility and length would give the Blazers five-position switchability, and Payton was arguably the league’s most disruptive defensive guard in 2021-22. A sound theory failed in practice, and Portland now moves forward without Payton and with Grant’s unrestricted free agency hanging overhead.”
Bleacher Report nailed it. What we keep hearing from the front office and leaders of this team is nowhere close to what we actually watch on a nightly basis. For some reason, Damian Lillard has sacrificed the prime of his career for a franchise that doesn’t really seem to care whether or not they win or not. At a certain point, I’ve actually pondered what Lillard prioritizes in his career.
It’s no longer uncommon and just standard practice in the modern NBA for players to demand trades, pick their new teams, and leave their old ones in the worst way possible. For Lillard, it’s never been the case. Less than a week ago, he said this about leaving a team you know well and how it doesn’t always work out:
“You look at Russell Westbrook. You leave OKC for Houston, then James [Harden] decided he’s leaving. Now Russ is traded to D.C., then you get traded from D.C. to the Lakers, now you’re on your fourth team in four years, and in your second year on the team, everybody is talking about how they should trade you. Now you’re coming off the bench. This dude is a Hall of Famer, an MVP. It’s an example that the grass isn’t always greener.”
He is spot on with that, but at a certain point, I could no longer stay in a place that hasn’t proven they will put winning ahead of all other things. The Blazers are disappointing, they are stagnant, and they are infuriating.
At some point, we have to wonder whether or not it’s more beneficial for Portland to do the unthinkable and prioritize trading away Lillard, the greatest player in franchise history, so that they can go through a complete rebuild.
It isn’t unfair to think this roster and team is beyond repair. If the Blazers are serious about winning, they might have to rethink their goals of building around Lillard and instead adapt to building a team with the picks they could acquire for him.
If Portland outright misses the playoffs, this will be a full-blown failure on all fronts, and it will be time to look at ways to no longer make lists like these.