Will the Portland Trail Blazers make the playoffs?
Do you even want them to?
Those questions stand tall at the forefront of every Blazer fan's mind as the boys in red and black ride a 27-27 record through the All-Star break. We asked the Blazer's Edge staff to weigh in with their answers. We'll ask you to do the same in the comments. Is the post-season attainable or would the Blazers be better off taking their lottery pick and trying again next year?
Ryan A. Sterling
A) It is really easy to envision the Blazers making the playoffs. The Rockets are a hot mess right now, with a disgruntled pair of stars and overwhelmed interim coach. Utah continues to have injury problems, and they lack a Lillard-type super player who can take over a game. While the Kings, Nuggets, and Pelicans all have a star or two who can drag them kicking and screaming into the postseason, the question is whether or not THEY want to make the playoffs. No one wants to be fed to the meat grinders located in Oakland and central Texas.
B) I do not want the Blazers to make the postseason. That draft pick that they will lose is part of getting the team fully restocked in the post-LMA era. While the 8 seed knocking off the 1 seed has become more common in recent years, asking this team to overcome the Warriors or the Spurs is asking too much. This is not the Denver Nuggets knocking off the Seattle SuperSonics (which only happened because Gary Payton had a foot injury, and Dikembe Mutombo played out of his freaking mind). The New York Knicks beat the Miami Heat in 1999, a strike shortened season where Miami had the one seed with a 33-17 record, and relied almost entirely on Alonzo Mourning. While it would be fun to see Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum raining down threes against the Splash Brothers, Portland would be better served with a first-round pick.
Dan Graves @inKelso
I hope beyond hope that the Blazers do make the playoffs. I know everyone just assumes that they would be a first round punching bag for whom ever they play, but to dance with the big boys you have to get there first!.
Funny things can happen come play off time. A key injury to an opposing player? A team peaking too soon and limping in? Some teams just do not play well against other teams, irregardless of their record. But like I said, you got to get there first.
My concern is their upcoming schedule, put in a nutshell, could be brutal! It's going to be be a good test. Each game is going to have play-off implications. The teams around them in the standings are going to be in the same situation. It's going to be fun to watch. Kick back and enjoy the ride.
Question 1: Do I think the Blazers will make the playoffs? I really really REALLY want to say yes to this...but pragmatism is rearing its ugly head. The Blazers just finished their best stretch of the season, going 12-3 over the last 15 games. They also had only five road games over the span, have played only one back-to-back in the last month and most of their opponents were bad teams. But even after that easy and successful series of games, the Blazers are still only just barely in the playoffs. Portland is still going to have to finish the season with a better stretch record than Utah and Houston to sneak into the eight seed.
The problem: The Blazers schedule from here out is downright brutal. Possibly the hardest in the entire NBA. The Blazers will go from Feb. 27-March 26 without consecutive home games. It's a de facto 15 game road trip. To make matters even worse, 11 of those 15 games are against teams with records of .500 or better. Staying in front of a hot Utah team, winners of eight of their last 10, is likely going to be virtually impossible, and even staying ahead of the floundering Rockets is going to be difficult. That being said, the Blazers have put themselves in an excellent position. Their playoff chances have gone from maybe two percent in October, to 30 percent in February, and that's pretty exciting.
As for whether or not I hope the Blazers make the playoffs, I'll admit to getting caught up in the excitement. As of this moment, I'm all for it.
But, I'm guessing that if they do make it I'm going to be wishing they hadn't by May. The Thunder, Warriors, and Spurs are on pace to become only the fourth triumvirate of teams to win 60 games in the same conference in the same season. The Clippers are 19-5 without Blake Griffin and have lost ground in the standings. Basically, the quality of play at the top of the conference is historically high, which means the first round of the playoffs this year is likely going to be historically lopsided. It's just as likely to provide "playoff experience" as it is to make a player think "wow...we overachieved by this much and still got beat THAT BAD. What hope do we have going forward?" Similarly, I know that by game four I'm going to be (theoretically) wishing the team had retained the incredibly valuable and tangibly beneficial first round pick.
Timmay | @BedgeTimmay
Will the Blazers make the playoffs? Yes... no... yes... no... yes-- Ok, I give up. I really don't know. A few weeks ago, I'd have probably said "No way!". But now? Dallas and Houston are reeling. Memphis lost Marc Gasol, possibly for the year. And as Evans recently discussed, it's not like most of the West is as unstoppable as before. Then below Portland, Utah is rising. And beyond that... eh. Sacramento? They're talented enough to make a run, just like Houston. But they can't get in gear. Portland definitely has a brutal remaining schedule. But... when you've got a team run by Terry Stotts, you never know. Stotts Blazer teams have a habit of out-performing expectations.
So assuming no changes to the team at the trade deadline... sure, why not? I think they'll sneak into the playoffs.
Do I want them to make the playoffs? Well, sure. In the end, I'm still a Blazer fan. A successful Portland Trail Blazers is typically a fun Portland Trail Blazers. But I wouldn't exactly shed any tears of this team gave it a run, came up short, and kept their draft pick. Put together another offseason of value pickups, perhaps one splashy transaction, plus a late lottery pick and... who knows? All they can do is create a plan, execute it well, and then you can hope it all falls into place with smart transactions, good chemistry, and players overachieving. Like semi-recent championship teams from Detroit, Miami (2005 edition), Dallas and, yes, Golden State. You just never know.
David MacKay @DavidMacKayNBA
To play Devil’s Advocate, I’ll say yes, the Blazers will make the playoffs. Unless the Nuggets or Kings get their act together, the Blazers are fighting the Jazz and Rockets for a spot. They only need to top one of them to make it in. The Jazz are hobbled (albeit less hobbled than they were) and the Rockets are on the brink of total implosion. I trust Terry Stotts to get it done with a team whose chemistry will only get better more than I do J.B. Bickerstaff to get his player staff to stop bickering.
As for my "playoffs vs. draft pick" leanings, I want the Blazers to make the post-season.
Put simply (for The Simpsons fans, anyway), it’s like racing fresh produce down the aisle of a school bus. If you choose not to compete, you may get to enjoy the fruit of your patience later, but you’re missing out on the experience. Sure, there is a chance that achieving your goals will cause a chain of events that leave you stuck on an island, but you don’t know what will happen unless you try; even if you weren’t meant for glory. Go, banana!
Brandon Goldner, (@GoldnerPDX)
The Blazers will not make the playoffs. But I want them to.
The Blazers' schedule is tough, but that's only part of what's working against them: Houston has the talent to bounce back (barring a trade that sends them rebuilding); the Jazz will be better when Alec Burks returns; and the Grizzlies have too strong of a system to fall out of playoffs (the same goes for Dallas).
Despite the headwinds, making the playoffs should be the Blazers' goal. The value of a low lottery pick is easier to quantify than playoff experience, but particularly for a team like Portland that so heavily relies on camaraderie, the opportunity to get postseason run will help moving forward.
Is Portland a team built to win now? No. But it IS a team for whom learning HOW to win big games will have value, both next season and beyond.
Weigh in with your thoughts below. And as you're doing so don't forget that we've already donated over 1400 tickets so underprivileged children and youth can see the Portland Trail Blazers face the Sacramento Kings on March 28th. We're trying to get that number to 2000. We give them directly to schools, coaches, counselors, and others who work with kids in need. It makes a huge difference! Can you help out with a ticket or two?
Donating is easy. Just click here and use the promo code:
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.
Also...with 2000 tickets on the horizon we will probably have room to say "yes" to a few more people. We've had requests for entire grade levels at some schools and request from grandmothers who have one grandchild they'd really like to take. We honor those and everything in between. If you work with underprivileged youth or children and would like to request tickets, my e-mail is right below.