The Great Portland Trail Blazers Postmortem 2021

The Portland Trail Blazers have been an object of fascination for this here site ever since they got off to a spectacular 28-18 start despite at that point in the season having a negative Net Rating from having gotten their butts kicked by 20 points or more on seven separate occasions while having just two wins of that margin to their name. They seemed to spit in the face of the logic that great teams win big and lose close, and at the time I predicted that it would come back to bite them hard in the playoffs. And sure …

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A Wild 2021 Finish Brews in the Western Conference

Through games of May 2, the Western Conference features a three-way tie at 36-28 for the 5 seed with just eight games to go in the regular season. And as alluded to in last week’s “6 is the New 8”, this is a fantastic year to have such a three-car pileup on the NBA standings highway. Most of the time, when you get a tie across a bunch of mid-seeds, it’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as all that hangs in the balance is who gets to host whom in what ultimately meaningless Game 1 of a …

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Portland’s Painful Regression Has Begun

See? I told you so. A few weeks back (April 6, to be exact), I pointed out that the Portland Trail Blazers had a won-lost record that seemed not at all to correlate with the points scored and allowed in their actual games. They were a slightly sub-.500 team posting wins like a squad that wins 50 games in a normal 82-game season. Since I said that (early enough in the day that they hadn’t yet played the Los Angeles Clippers that night), Portland is 2-8. And what’s more, four of those losses, including the last three in a row, …

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The Portland Trail Blazers: 2021’s Best Bad NBA Team

The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 133-85 on April 3, running their record to 30-19, sixth in the stacked Western Conference. They also ran their season Net Rating above the zero point, a place they’ve found themselves only rarely during the season. The previous two remarks, on paper, would seem to contradict each other. After all, one of the most powerful predictive factors in a team’s season record is their point differential, whether it’s per game or per 100 possessions—since the Blazers play at a 98.3 pace, those two numbers are close enough to tell the same …

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Bill Walton: Was He Any Good?

In the first article in this series looking back at historical NBA players and whether their impact matched their reputation, the central question revolved around whether only six years’ worth of NBA games in a career was enough to qualify someone for the Hall of Fame, no matter how good those six years’ worth of games actually were. And in Yao Ming‘s case, the verdict was ultimately Confirmed; he was and remains a true Hall of Famer. But Bill Walton adds another wrinkle to this question. The man’s career was so plagued by injury that he made only two All-Star …

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Rasheed Wallace: Was He Any Good?

“Ball don’t lie” is the guiding principle for every single thing I write for this site. From statistical analysis to comparing teams within and across eras to this very series you’re reading right now, the only thing that ultimately matters is what happened on the court, as measured and counted by the tools we have available to determine not just who won or lost and by how much, but how and why each player on the court contributed toward or actively hindered his team’s efforts. “Ball don’t lie”, of course, has another name around here: “Sheed’s Law”, after Rasheed Wallace. …

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Achtung Panzer! #2: The Tanking Portland Trail Blazers

Some teams, you know they’re tanking. They dump salary, let G-League rejects and second-rounders have big minutes, sign just enough veteran salaries to get above the league’s salary floor, and go out there and suck the way everyone knows they’re destined to suck. And then there are the 2019-20 Portland Trail Blazers, with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and a 5-11 record good for 14th place in the Western Conference above only last week’s Achtung Panzer entrant, the Golden State Warriors. The Blazers, on paper, shouldn’t be this bad. But there are clear signs that they are stealth tanking, convincing casual …

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Are the 2019-20 Portland Trail Blazers Good?

The Portland Trail Blazers went 53-29 in 2018-19, made the Western Conference Finals, then made sure Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum got paid the big bucks so their deep-playoff-running backcourt can keep doing that thing they do for years to come. Vegas rewarded them by…penciling them in for a six-win regression at an over/under of 47.5. Buh-what now?! They lost Jake Layman, Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu, Enes Kanter, and Maurice Harkless. They added Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, and Pau Gasol. My gut reaction is to say any team that subtracts Evan Turner automatically gets …

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NBA Best And Worst Contracts Part IV: Northwest Division

In previous installments of this series, we’ve looked at the relative value of the contracts in the Eastern Conference in terms of Win Shares per minute-weighted dollar of salary. Time for a trip out west, and we’ll run into the namesake of the Wiggins Factor stat when we get to Minnesota (spoiler alert: It’s a train wreck.) If having great value on contracts is a harbinger of making a deep playoff run, you might want to get to Vegas and get some money down on the Jazz. As a quick reminder, a rookie, veteran minimum, or midlevel exception contract should …

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Point Guards and Supermax Contracts Don’t Mix

The 2019 All-NBA teams came out Thursday, and the biggest winners out of all 15 players included on the list were Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker. By virtue of their second and third-team selections respectively, both are now eligible for the NBA’s “supermax” extension in their next contracts. If your first reaction to the term “supermax contract” is “oh gods, no”, then you’re probably a Wizards (John Wall), Rockets (Chris Paul), or possibly even a Thunder (Russell Westbrook) fan. Each of those players will be making well over $40 million by 2023, and each one of those players has either …

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