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Neil Olshey, Portland Trail Blazers Won’t Talk ‘Playoffs, Lottery’

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

 

On Jan. 15, Oregon Sports News’ Patrick McEachern came to the conclusion that the Portland Trail Blazers “simply cannot make the playoffs this year.” That decision, which was intended to mean they should choose not to make the playoffs, stemmed from an internal debate regarding the postseason versus the lottery—a debate that general manager Neil Olshey apparently hasn’t had since this past summer’s implosion retooling of the roster. 

In a recent discussion with CSNNW’s Dwight Jaynes (h/t Blazer's Edge), Olshey made it clear that Portland refused to enter this season with an all-in or all-out mindset. “We don’t talk playoffs, lottery,” Olshey said. “With us, [what] we talk about is playing hard every night, competing, developing, growing.”

Olshey went on to discuss the value of a lottery pick, as well as the mindset behind compiling 23-to-27-year-olds—and the fact that no roster will “bottom out” with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the backcourt. But with approximately half the season behind us, and most recently a 121-103 blowout over a disastrous Los Angeles Lakers squad, the question must be asked: Where are the Blazers in terms of making the playoffs and making the lottery at this point in the process?

Entering games on Monday, Jan. 25, Basketball-Reference.com has the Trail Blazers finishing the season 10th out West after 7,500 simulations of the remaining schedule. The site has Portland finishing with an average of 36.4 wins (the team is currently 20-26, 10th place, 1.5 games out of the eighth seed), ultimately closing out the year behind the No. 9 Utah Jazz and No. 8 Sacramento Kings. 

One important thing to note regarding the playoffs-versus-lottery debate is that the Blazers will surrender their draft pick this summer to the Denver Nuggets if they end up outside the lottery. Meaning a likely first-round exit won’t have the caveat of a draft selection immediately outside the always-desired top 14. 

While that clearly points to Portland “needing” to take advantage of the situation by “earning” a spot in the lottery, tanking would mean ignoring the fact that the West is down this year. Teams such as the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans have disappointed, and even a Utah Jazz squad with modest postseason hopes have been hindered by injuries through the midway point of the year. 

To Olshey’s stance about not picking sides (playoffs versus lottery): It’s an impossible debate to win. If you admit you’re aiming for the playoffs, detractors will point to the eliteness of the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. If the GM declares the team is tanking, you have two problems. Not only do diehard fans knock you for losing on purpose, but you admit failur by still being part of the playoff picture.

There’s no right answer to this debate. No matter how much the guy next to you at the watercooler has to say, there’s no one way to win this battle. 

But regardless of how this season ends, Olshey is sticking to his guns that development is the main priority. 

Let’s just hope that whether it’s a spot in the lottery or meaningful games in April, the Blazers keep momentum moving forward and avoid falling into dreaded purgatory. 

That, of course, is where middling teams refuse to concede to the lottery...while struggling to earn contender status in the Western Conference. 

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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