Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey made waves on Monday with a press conference that featured a plethora of finger pointing. Olshey, who assembled the players on Portland’s current roster, blamed former head coach Terry Stotts for the Blazers’ shortcomings.
Olshey’s sales pitch did not slip by The Athletic’s John Hollinger, though. On Tuesday, Hollinger pointed out the flaws in Olshey’s defense.
Don’t say that last part out loud, though. Surely, the Blazers aren’t. In a bit of performance art that one suspects is directly related to the concerns in the previous paragraph, Olshey used the postseason media meet to cast aspersions everywhere but on the talent around Lillard.
“This first-round loss was not a product of the roster,” he insisted (technically true: it was a product of the Nuggets scoring more points four times in six games), and added that the team’s ranking 29th in defense was not a reflection of the roster either. This roster, mind you, frequently had Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter teamed up in the frontcourt at the same time, among other transgressions. While it featured one of the league’s best help defenders in Robert Covington, it had no on-ball stoppers, only one rim protector (center Jusuf Nurkic), and lots of salivating matchup possibilities for opposing scorers.
Hollinger went on to explain that the Blazers might struggle to get out of the current situation that Olshey has constructed. From cap management to asset collection, Hollinger touched on several key issues that Portland must address. Hollinger’s report did highlight one alternate avenue for the Blazers to re-tool their current roster.
Trading their way out of this situation is theoretically possible, but harder in reality. Finding a buyer for McCollum who can send back equivalent talent that makes less money is a great idea that every Blazer fan proposes; this is not so easy in real life. More plausibly, Jones will presumably opt in to a $9.7 million deal for this season and then immediately become an expiring deal to pair with a future first in search of some immediate help. However, that help likely makes more than Jones, and one wonders how much the Blazers can spend into the luxury tax in this market for this caliber of team.
Jones appeared in 58 regular season games (43 starts) in his first season with the Blazers.
Portland finished the 2020-21 regular season with a 42-30 record. The short-handed Nuggets eliminated the Blazers in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
You can read Hollinger’s full story at The Athletic (subscription required).