Having covered some basic questions answered by the Portland Trail Blazers' performance in the 2013-14 season (Part 1 and Part 2) it's time to ask the $64,000 question: Where did this fantastic year leave the Trail Blazers?
A couple of notes:
1. Adjusted for inflation, that question is worth over half a mil now, so it's nothing to sneeze at. Unless, of course, you just got a new sneaker contract from Adidas, in which case you can burn through that tipping for brunch.
2. The question is complex. All 7 staff authors here will spend the next four months answering it in various ways. We'll engage in a general overview today and unpack as the summer rolls along.
So anyway, how good are the...hold up! Did you see that the Cavaliers just won the lottery AGAIN? That's crazy! They had, like, a 1.7% chance. At least now we know why they selected Anthony Bennett last year. They were all, "Psshh! First overall picks? We've got, like, six in our closet already. Go ahead, burn one! They'll just make a new one next year. No, go ahead! Take Bennett! Take him! It's literally impossible to mess this up!"
This feels a little bit like a bad "catch-up" rule on Page 53, Subsection 3b of an obscure board game rulebook. "If a team's first-overall pick of the prior draft session does not perform well enough to rank him in the top 65% of the league that team shall have the right to draft first in the next draft, regardless of the die rolls described in the 'Draft' section on Page 14." Of course the guy playing Cleveland just spent 38 minutes finding that rule and the guys playing Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Utah are now cursing him and the game designer both. But when you've already invested 4.5 hours playing you can't very well quit.
Some people are suggesting that the draft is rigged because the Cavs won twice in a row. I'd like to see how that conversation went down.
"Attention, covert accounting agents: I, Commissioner Adam Silver, and the secret cabal of NBA glitterati have determined that the league's ratings will soar if CLEVELAND receives the first overall pick. Are you laughing behind your hand? This is no joke! WE WILL BE OBEYED! Besides, we have done extensive research and league ratings are way up over the last few seasons, especially this year. And who had the #1 overall pick during that span? BOOYAH! SCIENCE! So weight those ping pong balls and make Danny G. a happy man again! Stop looking at each other like that. No more laughing! Do I look like Jim Carrey to you? What do you mean, 'Anorexic Howie Mandel'? I heard that! You best get to weighting or I'm gonna go Mean Commish on you! Don't test me! I'm HARD!"
As I said on (shameless plug) my very own Twitter account this makes the Cleveland Cavaliers the San Antonio Spurs of the draft lottery. They've had a decade of dominance and show no signs of slowing down despite annual predictions that they're too darn old to win the thing. At this point there's no telling when it will stop. You'd be a fool to predict against them next year even if they don't have a lottery position. They'll find a way.
And hey, doing it without the owner's kid this time is reminiscent of Gregg Popovich resting his starters and coming up with an even better result because of it. Somebody better nominate the Cavs for Lottery Executive and Lottery Coach of the Year.
Also, henceforth Draft Lottery Day shall be known as "Cleveland Christmas".
All of that said, having the first overall pick in a "really deep" draft isn't quite as nice as having it in a "totally top-heavy" draft. Cleveland will get to swing at a great player, probably a franchise-changer, but it'll be interesting to see who actually ends up the best overall player out of this draft. I don't think we'll know that for a while.
So anyway, where were we? Oh yeah...how good were the Blazers this year really? When you think about it...whoa! Did you see that the Hornets are back in Charlotte? I am so having Larry Johnson and Kendall Gill flashbacks right now.
Anyone remember how the league was all up in arms about Johnson's 12-year, $84 million contract? This was back when the entire salary cap amount to $15 million or so. But the Hornets survived it, I guess. Or maybe they pulled that old bad business trick of going bankrupt and changing their name to clear warranties and debts. "Hornets-Bobcats" = "Tom Peterson & Gloria's Too!" And now Johnson is looking at mid-level power forwards in the league and saying, "Dang! They're making serious scratch!"
But all's well that ends well. Charlotte has the Hornets back, New Orleans is happy with the
Bourbon St. Bombers errr... Pelicans, and the "Bobcats" moniker is now freed up for whatever city the league expands to in addition to Seattle once the new TV deal gets signed.
(Side Note: I once had a crush on a girl named "Moniker"--or something close...she had a southern accent so I could never tell--at this summer camp. One morning I stole a bun from the cafeteria, tucked it inside some straw from the horse pen, and presented it to her saying, "How about a roll in the hay?" Sadly, that did not happen. But it was a good try.)
Speaking of Seattle, I know I'm really going to miss the Sonics right up until the instant they return. Then they're going to suck again.
Oh right...we're supposed to be talking about how good the Blazers are. Well, they're better than the Knicks, right? I swear, the only thing funnier than watching Knicks Fan try to talk about the future with Carmelo while keeping a straight face is replaying SportsCenter from the day Steve Kerr turn down their head coaching job to go to the Warriors.
(putting on suave, smug Knicks voice here) "Well, you know Steve is a first-time coach and it's quite an honor for him to be coming to a franchise as prestigious as...what?!? The Warriors??? WHY? What do you mean, 'Because they don't suck beyond repair???' We do not suck! I mean, we do suck but we won't suck next year! And even if we do suck it's not our fault! We're the Knicks, damnit! Help us, Amare Stoudemire! Help us!"
Ostensibly Kerr took the Warriors job because he wanted to "spend more time with his family". Sorry, New York, that's the NBA equivalent of, "It's not you, it's me."
So how's that Phil Jackson hire going? From here it looks like you guys just bought a really expensive "How to Talk to Hot Chicks" book. It hasn't gotten you out of the Friend Zone, it's just making you look old and creepy. And his biggest idea so far, other than Kerr, has been...wait for it...trading Raymond Felton. This ranks right up there with, "Maybe we should cure polio" and, "Perhaps we shouldn't back our Ford Pinto into that oncoming semi-truck" in the Lexicon of Innovative Ideas.
(Pssst! Hey Knicks! I'm guessing that 92% of the NBA would rather be the Cavaliers than you right now.)
If you just felt a great disturbance in the Force, it was probably the sound of millions of voices suddenly crying out in terror at the Cavs comparison, then stuffing their faces with Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
Well, it looks like we're not getting to the "How Good Are the Blazers Really?" column today. For more Knicks discussion you can check out the podcast I did a few weeks ago with Kevin Nesgoda of SonicsRising.com. (Also check out the Cleveland and Minnesota versions if you're interested.) Or you can listen to Blazer-related material on the Phil Naessens show right here:
If that isn't enough you can watch Sam Tongue and I go back and forth about Kevin Love on the latest Videocast. Plus you can send in questions for the upcoming Mailbag to the address below. Marking 'em "Mailbag" increases the chance that they'll be answered.
Well, at least it wasn't the Lakers. I wish it had been you, Knicks fans. Wait, what? No first round pick either? Back to the freezer, then. I hear Half Baked is pretty good. And they named it after your cap management strategy too! No, wait, that was Damn Atrocious. My bad.
--Dave email@example.com / @DaveDeckard