Long before the 2015-16 season started the Portland Trail Blazers were presumed to be lottery contenders, one of a handful of teams with no real chance to make the playoffs and every incentive to covet ping pong balls in May's NBA Draft drawing. Yesterday SBNation's Tom Ziller pointed out that the Blazers sit in a pack of Western Conference also-rans capable of securing the 8th seed in the playoff bracket. As of last week, fantasy site Numberfire gave the Blazers a 24.4% chance of making the post season. Portland has been hovering near the 30% mark in their projections for most of the year.
Anyone who's watch the Blazers this year will understand that the chances are...well...chancy. The team's play can best be described as "spirited, but inconsistent". Their defense needs help. Their frontcourt needs a revamp. Their backcourt needs another couple years on them. Portland may look radically different on Wednesday night than Friday night. But a slim chance is not "no chance". The Blazers will play hard all season long. Under the right set of circumstances, they could sneak into the playoffs.
This brings up the question: Which do you prefer, 8th seed or lottery?
I've been asked this question several times in my inbox already and for me the answer is easy. The Blazers need to wring every victory possible out of the season. Here's why:
1. Players already face the temptation to prioritize a hundred things besides winning. Let that mindset take hold on a young team and you'll have to yank on the yoke pretty hard to escape gravity and pull out of the fatal dive.
2. Making the post-season would provide a huge boost of confidence for this team and bode well for the future. This would hold true even if they got slaughtered by the Golden State Warriors. "Playoff experience" is of dubious benefit when a team has zero chance to actually win a series, but learning what it takes--and subsequently feels like--to make the playoffs is an important part of the growth process. The faster that's sped up, the faster Portland can get on to the good stuff.
3. If we're having this conversation we're assuming the Blazers are close...maybe in a spread between 8th and 10th best in the conference. Yes, lottery balls bounce funny, but a 2% chance to end up with one of the top three picks doesn't merit losing out on the playoffs if you'd make them otherwise. Odds are that the Blazers would pick 13th or 14th in the order missing the post-season, 15th if they nabbed the 8th seed. Selling out for 1 or 2 steps upward in the draft doesn't make sense.
For me, this isn't even a conversation. For many it will be, so we'll open it up. Everybody in the universe would take the #1 overall pick over a near-hopeless playoff position, but assuming it's a close thing either way, would you rather the Blazers end up with the 8th seed or a lottery pick at the end of the season? Comment below.
Whether the Blazers make the playoffs or not, March 28th is Blazer's Edge Night. We're planning on sending 2000 underprivileged kids to see the Blazers play the Sacramento Kings that evening and we need your help. You can donate tickets to the cause through this link:
Promo Code: BLAZERSEDGE
Ticket Costs range from $7-13 (There is a $5 processing fee per order.)
You can also call our ticket rep, Lisa Swan, directly at 503-963-3966. You will need to indicate to her that you are donating the tickets you order to Blazer's Edge Night.
PLEASE consider sending a child or two! Donations have been strong but we've had a LOT of requests and we're not to 2000 yet. Help if you can.