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The Portland Trail Blazers Are Fully Embracing The Tank And Decide To Shut Down Damian Lillard For The Rest Of The Season

Sam Forencich. Getty Images.

I think it's fair to suggest that the Portland Trail Blazers had a pretty underachieving season. There's no doubt injuries played a role, with Jerami Grant leading the team with just 63 games played. That seems to be a recurring theme for the Blazers as of late, and even though guys like Grant/Dame/Simons had pretty good individual seasons, collectively the Blazers just weren't anywhere close to good enough in such a competitive West.

Once again, it was their defense that really made things tough. The Blazers come in at a stellar 27th in the league on that end, which technically was an improvement from their 29th ranking last season. It doesn't really matter how far back you go, it was 29th in 2020-21, and 27th in 2019-20. Every season it seems to be the same story with them. Dame looks incredible, they deal with injuries to key guys, and they can't defend for shit. 

Last season, you could point to the fact that Dame only played 31 games as a major reason why the team went 27-55. But to get nearly double the games and still be this shitty? That's a roster problem. It also brings into question when to pull the plug on the season, something that just last week was floated around as a possibility for the Blazers

What did we see happen since that 3/17 date?

Giphy Images.

If you go back a little further, the Blazers are in the middle of a 1-7 stretch over their last 8 games dating back to the 3/8 loss to the Celtics. The point is, they're cooked. As of the writing of this blog, the Blazers find themselves 3.5 games back of the 10th spot in the West (OKC). The first issue there is the Blazers went 0-3 vs OKC, so they're not jumping the Thunder. 

There is a scenario where the Mavs might be that 10th team. Those two teams split the season series, but the Mavs have the better conference record, so they win that tie breaker. If it ends up being the Jazz? Well, the Blazers did go 3-1 vs UTA, but they have work to do in order to get into the top 10 themselves.

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The larger point is, the Blazers are heading to the Lottery. They wanted to see how that post 3/17 stretch might go, they went 1-3, and now we have this

BRING ON THE TANK!

Gotta love the blatant fuck you right in Adam Silver's face. Oh you think tanking isn't real or isn't a problem? Well here ya go. Now that the Blazers have started the trend, I imagine we're going to see a whole bunch of lottery bound teams do this with their vets. Welcome to late March in the NBA for shitty teams! 

Here's where it gets interesting though. The Blazers may have had a shitty season, but it wasn't anywhere close to being shitty enough if they wanted to be serious about the tank

you could make the case they are currently in NBA purgatory. Not bad enough to get a #1 pick but not good enough to contend. With an aging superstar that makes $50M+ a year, that's a bit of a pickle. 

Shutting down Dame makes my brain go in a few different directions. For starters, while they can't get Wembanyama barring some extremely fishy Adam Silver behavior, they can potentially improve their pick slightly from the 6 spot. Their pick is lottery protected, so now it's about where that pick ends up. Finding a way to pass Orlando can only help.

That's important in the event the Blazers look at the landscape this summer and need to flip that pick in order to bring in some outside help for this roster. Winning games is the opposite of what the Blazers need to be doing, and playing Dame certainly makes that tougher. 

There's also the idea that what if we've finally reached a point where Dame says it's OK for the Blazers to fully embrace the rebuild and move him? On some level, I bet the franchise wants Dame to turn his key

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Then, in addition to whatever haul you get back for Dame, you also get to add a high lottery pick to the mix. That could be one way to jumpstart a rebuild. Look at what's happening to OKC! If this season has taught us anything it's that Dame still has a ton of basketball left in the tank, and as long as you can find someone to take on that insane yearly salary, there's value out there. 

You could have made the case that the Blazers should have done a move like this way sooner, but that's the beauty of the Play In tournament. They technically still had a chance until this recent March slide, the problem was the whole winning basketball games thing. Now the focus shifts to building for the future, and everyone knows Step 1 in that plan in the NBA is you have to start losing. 

Whether Dame is around to see what the next step ends up being remains to be seen, and it sure makes for an interesting offseason.