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Lowe Looks at Portland Trail Blazers Without Aldridge

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Can the Trail Blazers survive and make the playoffs without LaMarcus Aldridge?

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Lowe of Grantland analyzes the Portland Trail Blazers chances of making the playoffs without LaMarcus Aldridge for six to eight weeks.  His analysis is extensive and he offers hope for Trail Blazer fans.

He starts by telling us that this latest PDX setback is why it matters that Portland has beaten Oklahoma City, minus Kevin Durant, twice and why it matters that Damian Lillard was a superstar in San Antonio.  Every game matters because every team can be one major injury to a key player away from making the playoffs.  But there's hope, he says:

Portland should still make the playoffs, even if LaMarcus Aldridge's recovery from a thumb sprain stretches to the full eight weeks - a span that would cost him 23 or 24 games. The Blazers are five games up on Phoenix in the loss column, and eight games up on Oklahoma City for the lead in the Northwest Division.

Lowe has a lot of nasty things to say about the playoff system currently in place that allows Division winners to be seeded ahead of teams with better records.  But he points out the obvious positive of the system to Portland and that is that they have built up a big cushion over NW rivals.  He sees the Blazers going about 9-8 over the tough part of their schedule that they'll have to play without Aldridge, which would still leave them around 53 wins by end of season.  Other pundits seem to agree:

Most analytics guys I spoke to over the last 24 hours have this injury costing the Blazers between three and five wins - not quite enough to knock them out of the postseason. But some anxiety is warranted. The Blazers' offense has fallen apart with Aldridge on the bench this season, and just about every rotation player shoots better when he's on the floor, per NBA.com.

Lowe discusses whether the injury to Aldridge has pushed the Blazers to the tipping point where they should consider various trades to retain team balance but finally decides probably not:

The best bet for now is that the Blazers ride this out and keep their eye on the big picture. This team at full health is absolutely a fringe title contender. These Blazers are polished, and icy cool. They know exactly what they want to do on both ends of the floor, and they've mastered Stotts's conservative defensive scheme after about 150 games of executing it over the last two seasons.

He then goes into an extensive analysis of how the Blazers will miss LaMarcus with lots of videos to support the prevalent view that Aldridge might be the premier power forward in the NBA.  We already know that.

Lowe returns at the end of the article to the current NBA playoff system that benefits Division winners to the detriment of possibly more deserving teams.

It's dumb. Divisions are dumb. They are needless complications. They serve no real purpose anymore, especially since teams play almost every other team in their conference four times apiece. Just get rid of them.

That's a separate discussion. It will be fascinating to see how the Blazers fare with their roster in tatters, and after years of good health luck in the aftermath of the Greg Oden-Brandon Roy era. This is a really, really good team, and it would be sad to see the Blazers tailspin. They have the chops to get through it. Let's hope they do.

Hat tip to occasia for first posting this in Fanshots.