Why Now Is The Best Time For The Trail Blazers To Tank

Joe Harris | Oregon Sports News

Tanking isn’t ideal. It isn’t what any fan base or players want. There could actually be a conversation over how it’s actually executed and whether or not it’s real. No player in the NBA wakes up in the morning and says, “Today, I want to purposely lose a basketball game.”

But management and coaches have their ways. They have strategies to manipulate lineups and rosters. They have plays that are clearly not a good idea to run against certain teams. So tanking can be done, but I believe it’s more obvious than it typically lends itself to be. When a team starts the year 0-5 and fans on Twitter clamor that they are tanking, those fans are usually wrong. However, when a team finds themselves ten games below .500 and nearly eliminated from the playoffs in late March, a tank job is easier to spot.

It’s time for the Portland Trail Blazers to put it all on the table. This team isn’t going to make a deep playoff run. If the season ended today, they wouldn’t even be in the playoffs. They are nine games under .500. They have lost six straight games and won just two in the last 10. It is time to fold it up, pack up the season, and hope for the best in the upcoming draft lottery.

NBA insider Chris Haynes said last week that the Blazers might not just quietly tank, but they might do it full-blown.

“Dame probably has five or six more games left before Portland probably shuts him down for the season,” Haynes said. “There’s no use playing the duration of these games. So look out for that. If these next five, six games, they keep struggling, I will suspect…”

After a loss to the Clippers, even Dame is starting to sound defeated.

“We’ve pretty much fallen out of the race for the 10th spot unless we got out there and win every game,” Lillard said via James Burnes. “I just love to play, I love the competition, and I haven’t been ready to give that up. But it does come a time when you stop putting your competitive nature out front.”

That says it all for me. I never thought I would hear Lillard speak words like that. But if he doesn’t even consider getting to the playoffs is possible, then the Blazers should do whatever they need to do to tank for the rest of the season. Even with Lillard in the lineup, they are losing. But if they want to cut back on his minutes, why not? Do they want to bench him this season and cite some ridiculous reason? Go ahead.

The Big Issue With More Wins

If the season ended today, the Blazers would be projected to have the sixth pick. Of course, the way the draft lottery now works is like this:

  1. All teams missing the playoffs are in the Lottery
  2. Teams with worse records get more chances at winning a top-four pick (more ping-pong ball combos)
  3. The 1st overall pick is awarded by a drawing of ping-pong balls
  4. The 2nd overall pick is awarded by a drawing of ping-pong balls
  5. The 3rd overall pick is awarded by a drawing of ping-pong balls
  6. The 4th overall pick is awarded by a drawing of ping-pong balls
  7. Remaining lottery teams, sorted by record, fill out picks 5-14

The Blazers need a top-three pick in this draft; the only way to secure one of those picks is by having more losses and getting more balls.

Here’s the deal, there are three prospects in this upcoming draft that could be immediate stars in Portland and could get them over the hump they’ve been battling the last few years.

Victor Wembanyama is the consensus top pick; he’s touted as one of the greatest prospects since Lebron. He will go to whoever has the first pick, and he could quickly make that team a playoff contender. He is 7’4 and projects out like Kevin Durant.

Next is Scoot Henderson. He is a point guard in the G League who has been projected like Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook.

After him comes Alabama star freshman Brandon Miller. He is currently getting prepped to play in the Sweet 16, was one of the best players in the SEC as a freshman, and is a little bit like Paul George.

Any of these guys would immediately make the Blazers better and finally give Lillard a star teammate. That’s if Portland doesn’t seriously consider a trade this offseason to see if they can cash in on their star before it’s too late.

With or without Dame, they need a step up. They need to be in that top three in the draft. They can’t catch the Rockets, Pistons, or Spurs. Buy, they can catch the Magic and Hornets and still have more ping pong balls in the pot and just pray that theirs is selected.