The Portland Trail Blazers are currently below .500, with an unimpressive 29-33 record that has hedged them in between the No. 10 and No. 13 seeds in the Western Conference for several weeks on end.
Despite only being three games out of the No. 6 seed, Portland has failed to ascend anywhere past that line in the sand keeping them from the right side of playoff contention. Injuries and trades at the deadline have contributed to their 2-5 record since Feb. 9, but excuses profit little.
Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report had the Blazers at No. 5 on his list of most disappointing teams of the season, with this to back up his claim:
“The Portland Trail Blazers have a losing record and the No. 27 defense in the league. Those are two objectively disappointing facts, and they’re all the more dispiriting because the Blazers have been professing their intention to build a contender around Damian Lillard from the moment Joe Cronin took over general manager duties last May,” Hughes mentioned.
“Following a trade deadline that actually saw Portland lose veteran talent in the form of Gary Payton II and Josh Hart, the party line was the same.”
Hughes went on to acknowledge and laud Lillard’s incredible play this season, but introduced harsh reality to his assertions. Among which, the offseason acquisitions of Jerami Grant and Payton II helped the defense for but a moment, and now has the franchise facing a conundrum on that side of the ball that it made considerable efforts to remedy. Lillard’s loyalty to Portland may flip as Father Time approaches.
Anfernee Simons recently returned to the Blazers after a three-game absence, and Rip City awaits the return of center Jusuf Nurkic. Once fully healthy, the core four aims to mesh well, and quickly, with the new additions to the roster, in a last ditch effort to close the gap and squeeze their way into postseason contention.
The Raptors have underachieved with a nucleus of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby who all won a championship with the team in 2019. They sit at No. 9 in the Eastern Conference one game below .500.
The No. 8 seeded Hawks recently fired head coach Nate McMillan and replaced him with former Utah Jazz frontman Quin Snyder, hoping to make work the pairing of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray and curb their inefficient play. Since trading away D’Angelo Russell to the Los Angeles Lakers and obtaining Mike Conley Jr. from the Jazz, Minnesota has gone 2-4 as they desperately await the return of Karl-Anthony Towns, and remain a team that the Blazers have the potential to knock out of the play-in tournament.
The defending champion Warriors have not looked like repeat offenders, with Stephen Curry playing only 38 games and the James Wiseman investment not yielding anticipated returns. Though they are currently the No. 5 seed in their conference, they have the Blazers on their heels at only three games back and will see them in the final game of the regular season.
Responsibility falls on Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups to complement his individual scoring talent by upping the ante on the defensive end and fast, if Portland wants to be on TV in the Spring, and not in front of it.