Should the Portland Trail Blazers tank or make a run for the playoffs? It's a tough question, and both sides of the coin have legitimately good arguments to make. Tanking sets them up with a higher draft pick and, presumably, a better player to help with their rebuild.
But making the playoffs would be a humongous organization-wide lift for a franchise that entered this season having lost four very good starters. It's a difficult call, but the fine folks over at SB Nation's Blazers's Edge blog think they have an answer:
There's no real clear-cut playoff picture out West, which should incentivize the Blazers to make a run and keep winning as many games as they can. That's a sensible, commendable decision. But they've already won one lottery this decade with a sliver's chance at getting the top pick.
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Why can't it happen again?
1. Players already face the temptation to prioritize a hundred things besides winning. Let that mindset take hold on a young team and you'll have to yank on the yoke pretty hard to escape gravity and pull out of the fatal dive. 2. Making the post-season would provide a huge boost of confidence for this team and bode well for the future. This would hold true even if they got slaughtered by the Golden State Warriors. “Playoff experience” is of dubious benefit when a team has zero chance to actually win a series, but learning what it takes–and subsequently feels like–to make the playoffs is an important part of the growth process. The faster that's sped up, the faster Portland can get on to the good stuff. 3. If we're having this conversation we're assuming the Blazers are close…maybe in a spread between 8th and 10th best in the conference. Yes, lottery balls bounce funny, but a 2% chance to end up with one of the top three picks doesn't merit losing out on the playoffs if you'd make them otherwise. Odds are that the Blazers would pick 13th or 14th in the order missing the post-season, 15th if they nabbed the 8th seed. Selling out for 1 or 2 steps upward in the draft doesn't make sense.