I’m going to open with some harsh candor: It’s getting tough to watch Blazers games. Couple the unappealing aesthetic style of the team with the massive downgrade from preseason expectations and it’s hard not to be disappointed right now.
Given the circumstances, I think we are all readjusting our expectations as Damian Lillard and the rest of the team struggle to overcome injuries, poor defense, and a weird pandemic-necessitated schedule.
With that said, “readjusting” does not equal “giving up entirely” (to me, at least). The Blazers are accustomed to slow starts to the season in the post-LaMarcus Aldridge era. And by “accustomed” I, of course, mean that slow starts are practically the expectation at this point:
I'm not worried about the Blazers. At all. During Lillard era, they always start season w/ poor play/lack of urgency:— Eric Griffith (@EricG_NBA) January 7, 2021
Year Start Finish
2015-16 14-21 30-17
2016-17 24-35 17-6
2017-18 22-21 27-12
2018-19 15-13 38-16
2019-20 26-35 10-4
This year, more than years past, the multiple injuries to key players offer a very valid explanation for the current 10-9 record. Under the circumstances that record is probably a net win at this point.
The most likely scenario remains a second half turnaround. CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will rejoin the team, Robert Covington will figure his role out, and maybe a young player or two will step up and play some key minutes. We all know this script — we have seen it multiple times over the last few years.
The question remains, however, how much will they be able to make up in the latter half of the season? If Lillard can keep the Blazers afloat (i.e. around .500) for a few more weeks, how many seeds can the Blazers claw back in the standings by game 72?
The good news for the Blazers is that a couple other teams are also struggling right now. The Mavericks are practically in panic mode, the Rockets aren’t blasting off any time soon, and the Suns are cooling off after a hot start. The Blazers are still absolutely a playoff team and if literally everything breaks right they can fight for homecourt advantage.
Of course, hopefully fighting for homecourt advantage is a pretty massive drop in expectations relative to the preseason goal of making the conference finals and having a puncher’s shot at the actual finals.
So that brings us to the question of the day: What is your readjusted expectation for the Trail Blazers’ 2020-21 season?
Personally, I’m expecting the team to make the playoffs and lose in the first round, with an outside shot at winning one series if they are playing well and catch a good matchup. Not exactly what I was hoping for when the season tipped off in December, but probably the best they can do given the limitations of the current roster. Welcome to the NBA in Portland.
Sound off with your own adjusted prognostication/hopes/dreams in the comments!