It’s no secret that the just-passed NBA trade deadline could have been more fruitful for the Portland Trail Blazers. Trading away Josh Hart and Gary Payton II, they have brought in Cam Reddish, Mattise Thybulle and Kevin Knocks. While they are a group with potential, they lack experience, with Mattise Thybulle being the oldest at 25.
Trading for players even less experienced than the ones they had on their roster already isn’t the position in which the Trail Blazers would want to be. The blazers are suffering through a futile season with a record of 28-31. It’s fair to say that Head Coach Terry Stotts certainly has his work cut out for him.
Rough Seas Getting Rougher for Portland
The Trail Blazers failed to qualify for the playoffs last season and have yet to finish higher than third in the Northwest Divison since the 2019/20 season. Many commentators argue that their 2023 trades were a step backwards, at least for the franchise’s success in the immediate future. Many fans should expect the tough times to continue a little longer, at least into the summer.
A Day Late and a Dollar Short
Portland needs to bolster its ranks with top talents. But what team doesn’t? They are also nearly maximizing their salary cap, making things worse for Portland. They also have the business of resigning Jerami Grant on the horizon, which will be costly. It appears then that the Trail Blazers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Between their less-than-optimal trades and the Draft due in the summer, Portland is going to have to decide how they are going to tackle issues of bringing in new talent and finding the funding to do so.
The Way Forward
The Trail Blazers are in desperate need of putting experience around franchise hero Damian Lillard. Lillard joined Portland in 2012 as the sixth overall pick in the Draft. He went on to receive NBA Rookie of the Year and has risen to the Hall of NBA fame, being named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. He is the only player in Portland History to receive 6 All-NBA Team and 7 NBA All-Start selections. Portland needs to be able to field players around him if they are going to succeed. But being strapped for cash, Portland may have to give up its youth and the franchise’s future success for success in the immediate season.
With that said, there is already speculation about who could be an ideal fit for Portland in the 2023 draft. Michigan’s Jett Howard is Portland’s painkiller for their headache. He is a 6ft 8 playmaker with plenty of potential, but could he solve Portland’s immediate issues?
Light at the end of the tunnel or the Headlights of Reality?
If the Trail Blazers can not find a way to conjure up success, then many will be asking how long Lillard will be willing to stick around. He signed a four-year contract back in the 2021/22 season worth over 170 million dollars and is also in the best form of his playing career at the moment and would be a welcome addition to any of the teams in the NBA. While he seems content for now, he didn’t appreciate the franchise trading Josh Hart.
What are the options for the Trail Blazers? They rest their hope on a talented draft pick that will take them to success. But that seems unlikely, given their budget restraints and competition from the rest of the teams. Ultimately, it will be a waiting game for the Trail Blazers.
The competition is Fierce.
While the Trail Blazers are stuck making poor decisions, rivals in their division are being cutthroat with their trades. Utah Jazz, who just about made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, have signed two G-League players, Kris Dunn and Frank Jackson, on ten-day contracts to assist them with their playoff match against Oklahoma City Thunder (managing to win 120-119). At the top of the division is the Denver Nuggets. They currently have the second biggest win too loose ratio in the NBA, with Boston Celtics having one fewer loss and are dominating the Northwest Division. So, will the Trail Blazers make the Playoffs? Unlikely, after a 133-116 loss to the Sacramento Kings, it seems difficult to imagine where the Trail Blazers are going to pick up momentum and get the win percentage they need to make it to the final 16.