Was Terry Stotts the true problem for the Portland Trail Blazers?
The Portland Trail Blazers suffered another first-round exit in the 2021 Playoffs. After nine years with him, Portland parted ways with coach Terry Stotts. Their defensive rating was still 29th in the league despite some roster improvements in the 2020 offseason.
The Blazers were one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA. With the acquisition of Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington, Portland finally had the wing defenders they were clamouring for since they lost Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu in 2019. Despite their defensive talents, the Blazers were still horrible on that end of the floor.
This is largely due to Stotts’ defensive schemes which drew so much criticism during the season. On the flip side, he was one of the best offensive coaches in the league as Portland finished 2nd in offensive rating with only the Brooklyn Nets edging them.
While the acquisitions of DJJ and RoCo were strong, it was not enough to carry the Blazers to become a contender. They still have the star duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum but there were deeper issues other than Stotts’ tactics.
Neil Olshey and his lacklustre run as Portland’s GM
As a front-office executive who came in at the same time as Stotts and Dame, general manager Neil Olshey is also one of the foundational pieces in this Portland team. He is mostly known for drafting CJ in 2013 because the 2012 selection of Lillard was already made before Olshey arrived.
He is known as a solid GM around the league but if you look into his history, he has made terrible moves during his Portland stint. The biggest mistake he made was back in the 2016 offseason when he gave $200+ million worth of long-term deals to role players.
Those said players are all out of the NBA which proves it was a terrible move that crippled the Blazers’ future. They were dead set on Dame as their superstar and CJ as the second star. However, if they had the financial flexibility to sign players, they could’ve given the backcourt another star to work with to potentially compete for an NBA title.
The Blazers are stuck in limbo
The Blazers are a perennial playoff team as evidenced by their league-leading eight straight seasons in the playoffs. However, they’ve only made the Conference Finals once back in 2019 and then the roster was gutted after that.
With Dame and CJ still under long-term deals, it will be hard to say this team will compete for a title. There is a possibility CJ will get traded but his trade value might be too low for the Blazers’ title hopes.
Since they’ve let go of Stotts, Olshey is under a microscope because he has to make big moves to help the Blazers compete and satisfy Dame so he won’t request a trade.
Words: Cholo Martin