August is upon us and in just a couple months, the Portland Trail Blazers will enter the 2018-19 NBA regular season. An up-and-down 2017-18 campaign culminated in a first-round sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans and saw multiple rumors of head coach Terry Stotts on the hot seat. The following NBA Draft and Free Agency push proved mundane. Forecasts have the team on the 2019 NBA Playoffs bubble. Is it now reasonable to ask if will there be consequences if the team misses the playoffs this season?
Per Jeff Sherman of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, Portland is projected to be on the outside looking in.
NBA seas wins— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) August 5, 2018
To save you a bit of counting on your fingers, the odds have Portland finishing with 41.5 wins, good for 10th in the Western Conference. That’s not entirely unreasonable. The team won 49 games last season thanks to a fairly healthy roster and a large chunk of the Western Conference missing key guys for extended stretches - or at least when matched up against Portland. That—plus Damian Lillard going absolutely atomic for a two month stretch—was enough to put the Blazers a couple games above the 8th seed.
It’s not likely that the Blazers will have that kind of good fortune again. What will the reaction be if the Blazers don’t get to play beyond the first week of April?
While he has done an admirable job making lemonade out of roster lemons over the last three seasons, Terry Stotts would be feeling the heat. Last season brought whispers that he was on the verge of losing his job after being blown out in Atlanta just before New Years Day. After their embarrassing showing in the playoffs, reports had the team considering Stotts’ future with the club .
Should Portland take a step back, it’s reasonable to expect that a coaching change would be made. It would be akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but there has already been enough smoke to demonstrate that the franchise is not exclusively tied to Stotts, despite the admirable job he’s done.
Despite all evidence pointing to the contrary to this point, you’d have to expect that President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey would finally consider breaking up his vaunted backcourt. It’s one thing when you can spin CJ McCollum and Lillard leading the team to nearly 50 wins and having fans “bouncing of the walls of the Moda Center”, but it’s entirely another if the same duo gets outmatched in trapping situations in the playoffs and then fails to get to the postseason the following year.
Hope remains. Lillard and McCollum have never missed the playoffs in their careers. Even in the face of modest expectations, they aren’t taking the initial odds lightly:
It seems like every year we’re saying. “This is going to be a big season in terms of the direction of the franchise.” So far not much has changed. Could this be the year the dam breaks? Do you think that the Blazers will exceed the initial Vegas line? If not, would a reasonable reaction look like?