While everyone else in Los Angeles was watching Beyoncé at Coachella, my ass was parked on the couch watching the NBA playoffs. Let me be clear in saying that’s my preference.
I was expecting at least one series in the first round to be a sweep – maybe the Warriors/Spurs or Rockets/Timberwolves series, but not the Trail Blazers/Pelicans. If you read my last piece about the Blazers, you know I had so much faith in them. Matt did too, as mentioned in his piece about the First Round Matchups.
Just last month the Blazers went on a 13-game winning streak and looked nearly unstoppable. So, how did the 6th seed Pelicans sweep the 3rd seed Blazers, and what should Portland do now?
END OF LILLARD AND MCCOLLUM ERA?
Perhaps the biggest question is, should this be the end of Lillard and McCollum? The backcourt duo played extremely well this season, leading the team to 49 wins. The problem is that they simply don’t have the supporting cast to help them. New Orleans did an excellent job of stopping Lillard throughout the series, forcing Lillard’s teammates to try and step up. It worked out well for the Pelicans, I’d say. This strategy makes it clear, if it wasn’t already, that Portland needs some more depth.
I love watching these two players, I really do. I love a ridiculous buzzer beater from Dame and watching all the 2309684093 different ways C.J. McCollum can score. I don’t necessarily think the duo or the way they play together is the team’s issue, but rather their salaries. The two guards’ salaries combine for over $50 million. To give you some perspective, the entire team’s payroll is about $118.6 million. I don’t want to see McCollum go, but Portland really f*cked themselves with the contracts they gave Evan Turner, Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard. Just to let you know, Leonard averaged 3.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and .5 assists per game. Not worth $10 million a year, in my humble opinion. This doesn’t give the team very much salary wiggle room as far as free agency goes.
I don’t think Lillard is safe, either. This could be a complete “blow it up” situation. I think Neil Olshey (the Blazers’ GM) has a lot to think about this summer.
While Portland’s defense this season was much better than it has been in recent years, it was a huge reason New Orleans was able to defeat them in just four games.
I sang the praises of Yusuf Nurkic in my last piece, but I’m not sure if he’s a great fit on the current Blazers roster. Though he’s one of Portland’s bigs, he didn’t have the size or strength to defend Anthony Davis (but like, literally who does?), who scored 47 points in game 4. It is a challenge, when playing against big players like Davis, to defend aggressively and physically without getting into foul trouble, and Nurkic was unable to do so during the series. Nurkic also lacks speed and agility to defend shooters at the perimeter, which proved to be an issue in guarding Mirotic.
Nurkic has made it clear that he would like to stay in Portland, but is that what’s really best for the team?
IS STOTTS SAFE?
When I say I don’t think anyone on Portland’s team is safe, that includes Coach Stotts. In my opinion, Terry Stotts has done a fantastic job coaching this team. They’ve gone to five straight playoffs, which is no small achievement. Their 13-game winning streak in March still happened, remember? Their defense was ranked 7th in the league during the regular season, compared to 15th last season. There’s something to be said for that.
C.J. McCollum said of Stotts, “I think he’s done a terrific job with what he’s been given.” That seems to be the general consensus, so I’m hoping Stotts stays.
So what do you all think? Should Portland play the long game and be patient with this roster until they’re able to add some better supporting talent? Do they trade one of their two star guards? Do they blow the entire team up and start from scratch? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Man, can you imagine this team with LaMarcus Aldridge on it? Wait…