The Portland Trail Blazers are making top countdowns for the wrong reasons lately. In a recent piece for CBS Sports, Brad Botkin ranked the NBA’s most disappointing teams of the 2022-23 season and Rip City came in at No. 4.
Botkin didn’t mince any words, diagnosing the Blazers as “average” with so much disdain you sort of wish he just called them “bad.” He referred to the reluctance of former general manager Neil Olshey and how for years people wanted him to make aggressive moves.
This is an absolutely average team. Not good. Not bad. Certainly not what they hoped they would become when they finally shook up their roster. I still want to believe that Gary Payton II is a major difference-maker and that Portland will take off at some point, but I can’t convince myself anymore.
Everyone hammered Neil Olshey for his reluctance, or flat-out unwillingness, to break up the Lillard-McCollum duo and/or make strong roster moves during his tenure, but this is the other side of that. It’s not easy to improve on what Portland was under Olshey and Terry Stotts, particularly with a roster full of players that are/were worth more on the court than they are on the market (McCollum, Nurkic, Norman Powell, etc.).
New GM Joe Cronin came in and made that long-awaited roster shakeup, but after a brief flash of hope at the beginning of the season, the Blazers stand at 21-24 on the season. Botkin argues even with the roster retooling, nothing has changed.
Still, Portland fans just wanted to see some kind of front office action. So when Joe Cronin started shipping out pieces right and left and brought in Josh Hart and Jerami Grant and Payton and appeared to be building a more defensively equipped team, everyone got excited for a minute.
But now the dust has settled, and what are the Blazers? Still a bad defensive team covering for a vulnerable backcourt. Still, a team trying to win in the tightest of margins, a team that has to rely on Damian Lillard (or someone else) playing the hero in clutch time, only that isn’t happening as it did a few years ago (negative clutch differential), and suddenly this team isn’t making up for 43 minutes of mediocrity with five minutes of greatness.
Bottom line: The Blazers are desperate to put a contender together in support of Lillard, and at present, they have one fewer loss than the Lakers and are firmly stuck in the lottery.
Do you agree with Botkin’s gloomy assessment? Or do you think the Blazers are a work-in-progress capable of a hot streak that will shoot them back into the playoff pack?