With a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and a loss by the San Antonio Spurs, the Portland Trail Blazers overtook the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. They’ve won six straight games and stayed healthy while players like Kawhi Leonard, Andre Roberson, Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins going down have hurt their team’s playoff footing. Despite their ranking, Jamie Cooper of Dime on UPROXX isn’t sold on what Portland’s success really means:
It’s crazy to think that none of them, from No. 3 through No. 8, are assured a postseason berth at this point.
Some, however, are rising to the occasion right when it matters most … the Portland Trail Blazers have also found their groove amid a five-game win streak and a subsequently stunning — if not flimsy — ascension to the No. 3 seed.
At this point in the season, all the Blazers can do is win games and try to stay healthy; they’ve done both of those things. Given injuries around the league, “flimsy” might be one way to describe Portland’s rise, but they also took care of business in January — going 11-5 — and against the Warriors, Jazz (who were on an 11-game win streak), Suns, Kings, Timberwolves and Thunder on their current win streak.
Cooper then looks at President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, and how his past dealings shouldn’t give Portland calm:
Aside from the acquisition of Jusuf Nurkic last season, his trade deadline dealings have amounted to little, he’s failed to collect future assets that can be packaged into potentially larger deals, and the majority of the players drafted the past few summers haven’t developed into quality rotation players.
Even if the Blazers do, for argument’s sake, get out of the first round, a trip to the conference finals seems unlikely given that the road will have to go through either Houston or Golden State. Which once again begs the question of whether they are any closer to actually contending. On the one hand, it’s admirable that they’ve avoided a full-fledged rebuild, but something will need to change this summer one way or the other.
Aside from drafting Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Will Barton, Allen Crabbe and Pat Connaughton turned into solid role players (even if the latter two came via draft night trade, Portland still developed them — although Barton didn’t blossom until post-Portland). And the Blazers still have all of their future first-round picks to leverage in the summer.
No one would call the Blazers contenders, but they’re showing one more major piece might push them into that tier — with their success this season and a strong finish, it could help put Portland on the radar at the very least.
Do you think Portland’s success will spur a big summer move? Let us know in the comments.
You can read the rest of Cooper’s piece here, which mentions Portland’s tough March schedule and the tightness of the playoff race.