At 8-9, now sitting just outside the Western Conference’s early-season playoff picture, the Portland Trail Blazers rank as one of this year’s biggest disappointments. But while it’s easy to say they need to make a trade, Damian Lillard, despite this sluggish start, isn’t there yet.
From CSNNW.com’s Jason Quick:
As alarming as the Trail Blazers’ sputtering start has been, among the ranks inside the locker room, the level of concern after a numbing 1-4 trip is, at best, tepid.
“I know we keep saying it,’’ Damian Lillard said before the loss in Cleveland, “but it’s early.’’
He said he doesn’t believe changes need to be made, to schemes or personnel.
“I don’t think it’s that we don’t have the personnel, it’s that we have to lock in on certain areas and understand that’s what allows you to be a good defender,’’ Lillard said. “Like having an idea of what’s coming.’’
If you’re a Blazers fan (or teammates), it’s good to hear the franchise cornerstone remaining devoted to his crew. But his words will ring hollow if the team doesn’t figure things out.
Portland is allowing more points per 100 possessions than any other squad in the league, and its offense, while ninth in efficiency, isn’t good enough to prop up playoff hopes on its own. The Blazers rely on a huge dose of pull-up three-pointers—typically inefficient shots—and they still haven’t figured out how to best use newcomer, and $70 million man, Evan Turner.
And after throwing money at Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum (extension), in addition to Turner, hovering just outside the playoff picture isn’t acceptable. The Blazers don’t have a single immovable deal on their hands–not even Turner’s pact—so if they continue to drown on the defensive end and drop games to seemingly inferior opponents (New York Knicks), general manager Neil Olshey will need to make a move.
In truth, that may have always been the plan. The Blazers spent big money to maintain and slightly spruce up a mediocre core that wouldn’t have made the playoffs last year if not for a scorching-hot January. There’s no way they viewed themselves as a finished product.
Still, they most definitely consider themselves better than this, suggesting it’s only a matter of time before they pull the trigger on the personnel change Lillard doesn’t yet believe they need.