The 2023 NBA Playoffs are off to a wild, fluky start, featuring a bevy of spectacular upsets usually reserved for March Madness, not a Best-of-Seven postseason format.
The Golden State Warriors’ 120-100 dismantling of the Sacramento Kings in Game 7 today stamped the exclamation point: For the first time in NBA history, each playoff seed (1-8) will be represented in the second round.
The (1) Denver Nuggets, (2) Boston Celtics, (3) Philadelphia 76ers, (4) Phoenix Suns, (5) New York Knicks, (6) Golden State Warriors, (7) Los Angeles Lakers, and (8) Miami Heat all won first-round series to advance.
While the results are a historical first, the upsets aren’t entirely unexpected. Following a regular season which was lauded for its parity, the 2023 NBA Playoffs are simply living up to the hype. After one round, the championship field feels more wide open than ever, a proclamation NBA fans had been hearing all season with no super team standing atop the league almost unfairly (cough, cough Kevin Durant Warriors).
So, given the nature of this year’s playoffs, we are opening up a Sunday discussion question for readers to debate in the comment section:
Should the Portland Trail Blazers have been buyers, not sellers, at February’s NBA Trade Deadline and does the parity shown in the playoffs affect your opinion in any way?
General Manager Joe Cronin’s moves at the February deadline have been analyzed at length and he has given his reasoning. Cronin said he tried to pull off a needle-moving trade, but after coming up empty the front office pivoted to the safer, more patient route of asset acquisition.
Portland secured draft capital and cheaper contracts in Matisse Thybulle, Cam Reddish, Kevin Knox II and Ryan Arcidiacono, while saying goodbye to Josh Hart and Gary Payton II. Portland also chose not to improve its depth at the center position. That decision, along with the Hart trade, probably stung most in the short-term. Portland gave up a starting caliber player without getting a proven starter back. To rub salt in the wound, Hart has been excelling off the bench for the Knicks during their spirited playoff run (though Hart may have been difficult to re-sign this off-season had he remained a Blazer).
While big swings may not have been available at the time, could there have been smaller, team-boosting trades available that could’ve kept Portland in the playoff race, rather than effectively punting on the back-half of the season? Do you believe Damian Lillard be leading one of these underdog runs were witnessing?
The Lakers, as much as it’s a pain to admit, pulled off an ultra-effective trade deadline without manufacturing a jackpot trade. They added solid-to-great role players, improved depth and are now looking dangerous in the second round of the playoffs as a seventh seed.
Or, with Portland still lacking additional star power outside of Lillard, was Cronin smart to remain patient and wait for next season until he pulled off aggressive moves? Did the Blazers not stand a chance this season, even with greater league parity, without a big-swing deal?
The NBA landscape can change rapidly in a short amount of time, especially during an off-season. Who knows how long this parity will last.
Thus far, the 2023 NBA Playoffs are proving to be an enticing window of opportunity that Portland missed out on.