The uncertain future of some Blazers that have not failed ... But yes

The first-round elimination comes after a year plagued with injuries, but also questionable changes and a lot of money committed.

The-uncertain-future-of-some-Blazers-that-have-not-failed-...-But-yes

At this stage of the season, not the year since in 2019 there was no pandemic that delayed everything, the Blazers were one of the hottest teams in the league after sweeping the Thunder in the first round (4-1) with Lillard's final triple that was a knife that unraveled the Oklahoma City project. They would then beat the Nuggets in a tremendous series resolved in Game 7 in Denver to end up losing 4-0 to the Warriors. All this without Jusuf Nurkic, who had broken the lukewarm shortly before starting the playoffs. The Blazers, then, reached their first conference final since 2000 after being third in the West and without having one of their top three players during all playoffs. The project that emerged in Portland in 2015 after the demolition of the previous one (that of Aldrige, Batum and company) and that had gotten into the playoffs each year finally seemed ready to take the last step and fight face to face with the greats .

That seemed like a year ago. But 2020, like so many other things, has also taken a piece of the Blazers' credibility. The elimination in the first round against the Lakers is the least. A detail that does not explain the real dimension of the problem. Because yeah, the Blazers have a problem. That they finished eighth after a very difficult regular season plagued by injuries can even be considered a success that demonstrates the competitive capacity of the group in adverse situations. But the fact that Nurkic, Zach Collins and Rodney Hood were missing doesn't justify it all.

These Blazers defend very poorly. The worst thing you can see in the league. Until the Lakers fell below 100 points in Game 1 of the series, no one had scored less than that since January. 37 consecutive games conceding more than 100 points. In the play-in, some Grizzlies who came to play it with their tongues out were about to give them a scare and Lillard's displays in the bubble, with those games of 60 points or almost, do not reflect anything other than the need of the team to that your star has unusual performances every two by three. And all because what they achieve in attack is thrown back on the ground.

It did not help to improve the situation certain decisions in the offices last summer, when they got rid of two key players in the outside defense: Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. Two men with clear limitations to create advantageous offensive situations by themselves and with an outside shot that is not always reliable, but who did a key defensive job in a team that is not enough in that regard. Trevor Ariza came in with the season started to plug that hole, but was injured before the playoffs. Another debatable exit was that of Seth Curry, this one yes an excellent shooter who has completed one of the best seasons of his career in Dallas.

But the real problem is that the Blazers defend poorly starting with their star partner. Lillard and McCollum, two innate attacking talents, are below par when it comes to avoiding outside baskets. And that is a problem, because after the two contracts that they signed last summer, both are going to cost the franchise more than 400 million. A figure that leaves very little room for maneuver in a market that is not usually attractive for the big players. When the Blazers bet on renewing confidence and risking the future of the project in its starting backcourt, there were several analysts who thought that was a mistake. That that couple had already reached the ceiling, that that ceiling was never going to be winning a ring and that in Portland they would have to consider transferring one of the two. At the moment there is no sign that they are thinking about something like that. But there comes a time when teams give 100% of what they have and if that 100% does not help you to win (and it seems that 100% of these Blazers do not reach them) and you cannot add new pieces, the only solution is to seek a trade with something of yours.



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