For the past decade or so, the Portland Trail Blazers haven’t necessarily been a good barometer for what a successful season looks like. They’ve always been a little queasy about the building process, and the result has been exactly what we’ve seen for the past 5-6 years: A pretty good team that usually makes the playoffs before getting bounced in the early rounds.
A lot of franchises around the league would love that type of consistent success. You might even argue that it’s a refreshingly healthy perspective in a sport that puts so much emphasis on winning championships. The problem is that this approach can, after a while, feel less like an admirable example of consistency and instead make it feel like an organization is happy with having a defined ceiling.
At some point, the Blazers will have to re-evaluate their approach. That point could come at the end of this season if they find themselves struggling to qualify for the playoffs. Yes, it’s crazy to think about given that they finished with the No. 3 seed in the West last season, but you can argue that third place finish also came as a result of the Blazers benefitting from the misfortune of others.
The Jazz, Pelicans, and Spurs all suffered major injuries to star players, while the Thunder struggled with chemistry and consistency problems. When you factor in newcomers like the Nuggets (which, also, played more than half of last season without Paul Millsap), Lakers, and even a much-improved Mavs squad, the Blazers could find themselves on the outside looking in, especially if they get off to a slow start.