The Portland Trail Blazers are currently one of seven NBA franchises without a head coach. Along with the Celtics, Mavericks, Pacers, Pelicans, Wizards, and Magic, the Blazers are standing alongside the coaching carousel, waiting to see who will spin around to their position.
Today Zach Harper of The Athletic looked at NBA coaching vacancies, examining the condition of each of the franchises involved and asking which positions were more or less attractive. He ranked three slots highly, the Celtics (whom he called the most attractive destination), the Pelicans (because of Zion Williamson), and Portland.
Not that the Blazers are issue-free. Harper explained the challenges facing the Blazers so:
Is the problem for this team the schemes of the old coaching staff or is it a personnel issue? If you even make this team average on defense, it vaults up to one of the best teams in the NBA. And the Blazers are already really good. This team could defend with Jusuf Nurkic on the floor, and they were a disaster without him. So how do you avoid the disaster? Is that on Neil Olshey to fix or the new coach? Some legitimate challenges to defending are there with Lillard and McCollum in the starting backcourt, but it can’t be historically bad moving forward, right?
Despite that, Harper cited Lillard as “the most clutch player in the NBA”. His talent alone was enough to sway the Blazers towards the positive end of the scale. He also had a suggestion for Portland’s next coach that goes against conventional wisdom:
Mike D’Antoni. I want to see what it looks like to have Lillard with D’Antoni’s offensive mind. I know the Blazers need to fix the defense, but I think you can hire an assistant coach to help coordinate that.
Coordinating defense through assistants didn’t help Terry Stotts in Portland, at least not in the last couple seasons, but Harper still seems bullish on the Blazers, and that can’t be a bad sign for Portland’s coaching prospects.