Optipessirealism

There’s been a fair amount of discussion in the sidebar recently about the Blazers’ future prospects (near- and far-term) and what is realistic, too optimistic, or not optimistic enough.  You can find jlarose78’s discussion of the matter in the sidebar as we speak.

 

Those of you who were here may remember that last season during the long December winning streak I caught a lot of flak from people by holding the stance that the Blazers were probably not going to make the playoffs despite the chain of victories.  Plenty of folks talked about grumpy pessimism.  After the season I said the Blazers probably would return to the playoffs in the coming year and that, whether they did or didn’t, this team has the make-up of a championship squad providing Oden remains healthy.  A few other folks then decried this as optimism.

 

With a few exceptions, there’s a common thread to all of the reasoning leading to cries of homerism, optimism, pessimism, or whatever.  Back during the streak many of those asserting the Blazers would make the playoffs were citing things that were likely to go wrong with other Western Conference teams--falling apart, injuries, thin rosters--while assuming these things wouldn’t happen to the Blazers.  On the other hand people more cautious about the Blazers’ chances tend to talk about those same things happening to the Blazers while assuming they won’t happen to other teams.

 

Simply put, it doesn’t work that way.  In the end most of that stuff doesn’t matter.

 

I mentioned this a couple years ago, but for a refresher course, here’s how it works:

 

Ups, downs, injuries, squabbles, botched plays, and mysteriously missed dunks will happen at different times to different teams.  As an aggregate, however, those probably won’t be the difference between success and failure, if nothing else because any team that depends on the vagaries of fortune to win is already doomed to lose.

 

The teams that win--most of them that go to the playoffs and almost every one of them that wins a championship--have one thing in common:  on average they have fewer questions about talent, readiness, and suitability than the opponents.  In other words the teams that have to say, “If this player develops this skill it will fill that hole and then we have a chance” aren’t going to win over a team that knows that hole is already filled.

 

Who has had the fewest questions about their roster, its talent, its balance, and its capabilities in the last decade?  None other than Old Reliable, the San Antonio Spurs.  Phoenix has had a more exciting offense.  The L*kers have had the biggest superstar.  Dallas has had the overwhelming mass of talent.  None of those teams has had the overall success that the Spurs have because along with their attributes all of them had serious questions to be answered.

 

And mind you, the Spurs have not led a charmed life.  They’ve had injuries, bad calls, and all the rest happen to them.  Their team was simply the best able to withstand those things.

 

Let’s look at the Blazers in this light.  This year there are some pretty big questions.  How Oden, Rodriguez Fernandez, and Bayless fit in would be an obvious one.  You have point guard questions, offensive production questions, and youth/experience questions.  This isn’t as damning as it sounds because the Blazers also have a lot of talent and because most of their Western Conference competitors have serious questions also, especially after this turbulent off-season.  It’s likely that these issues will keep Portland from leapfrogging the truly established teams in the West but its reasonable to assume that in a dogfight for those lower playoff seeds the Blazers have a chance.

 

Where it really gets interesting is looking 3-4 years down the road.  At that point talent will not be an issue in the least.  In fact the Blazers will probably have a surfeit.  If offense remains a problem this year we will probably solve that with next summer’s cap bonanza.  The same holds true of the point guard predicament (providing there is one).  Youth and inexperience will no longer be an issue.  Defense, check.  Rebounding, check.  Team play and chemistry, already there.  Size, speed, athleticism…roger.  It’s hard to imagine any base this team won’t have covered.  The only wrench in the gears would be injuries, but it’s unlikely injuries would destroy an entire decade.  Somewhere in there this team is going to be healthy. 

 

In other words the questions we’re asking right now are the type that will be solved with the passage of time.  (As opposed to, say, the Warriors or Clippers, who could age five years overnight and still be struggling with the same issues.)  The way it looks right now after that time passes the Blazers, on average, are going to have fewer questions surrounding them than anybody else, which bodes well for this team.  That’s what matters.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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