The Portland Trail Blazers are tanking. It’s not a well-kept secret, but with the likely shut down of Damian Lillard for the final nine games of the regular season, the franchise’s plans have essentially become official.
It should be a fun last few weeks with more minutes for Shaedon Sharpe, and to a lesser extent, other young players like Trendon Watford and Nassir Little. It will also give Portland an opportunity to see more of Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish, who general manager Joe Cronin needs to make a decision on as both are restricted free agents at the end of the year.
The reality of the situation, though, is that the next few weeks are about making every effort to lose games and increase lottery odds. The higher the odds, the better the chance of lucking into the No. 1 overall pick and uber-prospect Victor Wembanyama who, as long as he stays healthy, has a chance to change the direction of any NBA franchise.
The Blazers have four games this week, which means four opportunities to increase those odds. Here are those games ranked by level of importance in the race to the first overall selection. (Basically in order of the easiest games to lose to the most difficult games to lose).
4. Friday vs. Sacramento Kings
Three of the Blazers’ four games this week are at home, and although Friday night’s matchup with the Kings – the third-best team in the Western Conference – is one of them, it’s a contest Portland should have no problem dropping.
For one, this is the second of back-to-back games against Sacramento.
If the Blazers were in postseason contention, this would seem like a bad joke from the schedule makers. Instead, it appears to be a gift for a team that wants to lose as many of its final eight games as possible.
One of the best teams in the NBA, albeit one of the most surprising, will get a second shot at scouting and playing the same injury-riddled team. The Kings won’t need to worry about travel, either.
This one seems like an easy “L” for Portland.