With the Portland Trail Blazers all but out of the Western Conference postseason race, it appears the franchise may finally be ready to officially look toward the summer.
According to NBA insider Shams Charania, the Blazers are “leaning toward” shutting down Damian Lillard for the remaining nine games of the regular season:
Portland would be making the right call for multiple reasons
The writing has been on the wall for weeks now: The Trail Blazers are not making the postseason. As Charania notes, the team is 3.5 games back of even a spot in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament.
Shutting Dame down now is the right decision.
Firstly – and most importantly – Lillard is injured. The calf problem isn’t serious and the Blazers’ point guard has been playing through it for the past handful of games, but there’s no sense in risking anything worse happening to Portland’s franchise star.
Secondly, if the Blazers aren’t going to make any kind of playoff run, the plan should be to tank as hard as possible. As of March 25, Portland has the sixth-best odds of landing the No. 1 overall selection in June’s draft.
And the 32-41 Blazers are gaining ground on the 31-43 Orlando Magic for fifth. If they can get there, the odds at being able to put Victor Wembanyama in the pick-and-roll alongside Dame next season jump to more than 12 percent. (For reference, the top three teams have an equal 14 percent chance at landing the first overall selection).
- Don’t let Lillard get seriously injured.
- Increase your lottery odds.
- Luck into the first overall pick.
- Win the 2023-24 NBA Championship.
Doesn’t seem so hard, does it?