the Portland Trail Blazers Approaching the middle of the 2022-23 NBA season, a year that was supposed to revolve around redemption and new hope. It was! Until it did not happen. Amidst scoring records, highlight reel hits, and last-second buzzer hitting, Portland has compiled a agonizing regular season record. This causes consternation for some fans who want more clarity. Provides this theme for the current Blazer’s Edge mailbag.
Who are Blazers really? I’m having a hard time knowing where we are and where we’re going. I look at the highlights and I think this is the best team ever. With games like Detroit, the whole game is a highlight and feels good. So why not win more?
Thanks for helping you find that out!
That’s the million dollar question, right? Or millions, really.
Part of me wants to say the Blazers are a good team. They can’t avoid it, given this list.
As I was watching the Pistons game last night, my camera caught Gary Payton II chatting with Josh Hart on the bench, after a long period of doubt about the outcome. The two were laughing, moved. The camaraderie struck me, but the fact that these are basically the fifth and eighth guys on this team. And they are good players. I trust no task required less than defending a position. That they’re in the middle spin positions is just so cool.
Moving up to the top, we find Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons, as powerful (and in Simons’ case, promising) backcourt duo as you’ll find in the NBA. Jeremy Grant plays the best basketball of his career, and looks like an All-Star. Jusuf Nurkic is not steadfast, but like Hart, he will have more to give if he shows up more.
It’s hard to blame the Portland Seat, too. Justise Winslow does a little bit of everything for them, including defense. Drew Eubanks is efficient, Jabari Walker is energetic, and Keon Johnson is athletic and just starting to grow. Little Nasser can be a valuable asset if he stays healthy. They lack huge names, but they bring heart and growth potential.
Other than the lack of balance towards younger players, there isn’t much to dislike about this list. And even that is more about the build than the actual players. This team feels tough, talented, and explosive (in a good way). It’s the best lineup for the Blazers since 2014.
However, you look up and the Blazers will be 19-17, seventh in the Western Conference. Yes, the entire West has been assembled this season, but that’s like saying your entire class was sluggish when trying to run the 100m. This does not mean that you were magically fast. This means that none of you get to the next level. It’s an excuse, not an aspiration. A great team will rise above the chaos. Portland is not.
The Blazers’ issues this year feel painfully familiar: lack of defense, miserable play at times, and over-reliance on Lillard and/or starters. Injuries are a new whim. They don’t matter. Portland was playing with the middle of their cut list, particularly the defensive parts. It’s easy to imagine Winslow and Little helping out. It’s hard to imagine them switching over in season.
On paper, this is a good team, or at least it has potential. Down to earth, she seems humble. Once again, the Blazers have left us in the position to wonder what is real: the promise of occasional flashes of brilliance or long-term results?
I have to remind myself a lot: If you have to ask the question, you already know.
As I’ve said all season, we have to be patient with the team. The moving parts will take time to settle. Even under the best of circumstances, we probably won’t know everything about them until the end of February, at least, when they come back from the All-Star break and start fighting for the playoff spot in earnest. Given the injuries they sustained, we may not fully know until then. If I had a choice, I’d give them both halfway through Next Season, take a step or move to add volume in the frontal area. We won’t really know this list until they know each other subconsciously and can act without thinking or questioning.
Unfortunately, they don’t have that luxury. As we’ve also pointed out time and time again, Grant’s contract is ending and he’s set to get a big raise. Hart will likely enter free agency as well. The front office can make a case for keeping both starters forward, but only if the team excels. If they’re going to be in the middle of the pack, the Blazers can’t spend as well as they compete.
It’s a frustrating situation, not one that the team envied. They would need to place high-dollar bets based on incomplete information, and turn the oven up to a certain temperature without knowing if they were cooking fish or fowl. You can hear Gordon Ramsay sniffing as we speak.
In the meantime, here’s what we know. The Blazers are good, often sexy, and easy to get into, but judging by their actual track record and play, they’re nothing special. You can’t tell them apart from the other eight teams at the top of the Western standings, and at least seven in the Eastern Conference, too… unless it characterizes them negatively, as in, “They’re not Boston.”
Portland’s performance may be in flux, but the actual verdict of “good, but not great” is pretty sure at this point. If the Blazers pull off a 10-game winning streak, they’ll have a 29-17 record. the Denver Nuggets And the Memphis Grizzlies He would need to go 5-4 and 6-4 respectively to achieve the same. And this is with Portland playing perfectly.
The big dream is for the West to be so wide open this year that whoever makes the playoffs will have a chance to emerge victorious in the tournament. NBA Finals. This is unlikely to happen. The best teams will distinguish themselves before the season ends. But even if that happens, “We have a chance, at least,” is a mantra that the other nine teams in the playoffs and playoffs can claim as well. Randomness is not an achievement, nor is it enough platform to build hopes even for a year, let alone the next five.
The Blazers show us who they are in relation to other NBA teams. I’m not sure the answer is enough for us or them. We’ll find out over the next four months, but if the ache of not achieving the ultimate goal outweighs the ache of having to transfer quality players in order to get a better chance, then both we and them will need to live with that. .
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