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Zach Harper: Trail Blazers Are Not Panicking

The Athletic analyst looks at the teams who have exited the NBA playoffs bubble and asks how they see themselves.

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NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of NBA teams are nervous about their off-season after being ejected from the 2020 NBA Playoffs, but the Portland Trail Blazers are not among them. Zach Harper of The Athletic compiled a list of 12 teams, rating them on a scale of 1-10, ranging between cool as cucumbers and living “at the Disco”. The Blazers came in among the lowest of the 12, for reasons that might surprise you.

Harper began by explaining his Panic Meter, using real-life NBA examples:

  • How much pressure is there to contend next season? (We’ll call this the Clippers factor.)
  • Do they have injuries or injury recoveries that could keep them from those expectations, essentially acting as a metaphorical meat shield from the pressure being there? (We’ll call this the Nets factor.)
  • Are there significant members of the roster up for free agency or in danger of requesting a trade? (This could also be the Clippers factor with Montrezl Harrell or the Raptors factor with their free agents.)
  • Do they have a coaching issue that needs to be resolved? (Rockets factor, 76ers factor, Pacers factor, etc.)
  • How much embarrassment happened in their ousting? (Bucks and Clippers factor, for sure.)
  • Is there drama or supposedly quelled drama with key players we need to keep an eye on? (Jazz factor, Clippers factor, 76ers factor, etc.)

After explaining the sheer terror of the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Philadelphia 76’ers, Harper got to the relatively placid Blazers:

The Blazers don’t have much panic because they don’t have much flexibility. They’re pretty locked into the backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, although we could see them move McCollum in theory. Seems like they’re rolling with that duo. A season full of frustration and injuries became neutralized by a great bubble run, capturing the No. 8 seed, and then getting a game off the Lakers before getting eliminated. They can easily run this back with only Hassan Whiteside likely to leave. A resurgent Carmelo Anthony seems to want to stay in Portland. They were in the conference finals in 2019. Getting back to that is an uphill battle, but they could be in good shape to make a run.

As you can see, Harper has plenty of confidence in the Blazers. Does his assessment match yours?

Read the whole article to see the franchises with the most reason to be nervous, plus two who are even calmer than Portland is.