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Blazers GM Neil Olshey Takes No Blame For Yet Another First-Round Playoff Exit

Liam McKeone
Damian Lillard and Neil Olshey
Damian Lillard and Neil Olshey / Steve Dykes/Getty Images
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The Portland Trail Blazers have made the playoffs for eight consecutive years, and have generally done so with the same core of players. That's a difficult accomplishment and one worth celebrating. But out of those eight consecutive playoff appearances, they made it out of the first round only three times. After after losing to the Nuggets in the first round this year, the organization decided it was time for a change and gave coach Terry Stotts, who oversaw all eight of those postseason appearances, his pink slip.

A new head coach will not fix all the problems with the roster, though. The Blazers were horrendous defensively, finishing 29th in the NBA in defensive rating, and most nights couldn't stop a nosebleed if they tried. This is not a new trend for a Portland team built around two undersized guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Scoring points has been the easy part for the Blazers over the last half-decade. General manager Neil Olshey has attempted various stopgaps in that regard, finding diamonds in the rough like Gary Trent and Jusuf Nurkic to tighten up the defense. Most of those moves haven't panned out and that's why Portland is where it is right now.

Unless you ask Olshey, who is more or less responsible for how the team was constructed and therefore its flaws. Olshey believes the first-round exit and defensive issues simply aren't a roster problem. He didn't say what the actual problem was, but given that he's still employed and Stotts is not, reading between the lines is easy.

Ah, yes, of course. That is definitely not why the Blazers lost. Speaking for myself here, I certainly didn't see any limitations. Not the fact that Stotts had to start 37-year-old Carmelo Anthony because he didn't have any big wings other than Robert Covington, or the fact that Enes Kanter's biggest responsibility was defense because there was no center depth behind Nurkic. Those were definitely Stotts problems!

Look, the roster doesn't need a blow-up. The Blazers were good enough to go 42-30, which would have been a high-40 win pace in a normal year. The team needs a reconfiguring but it's not like the front office has been putting trash around Lillard as his stock has risen to become a legitimate star. This can be true while admitting that Olshey's big roster swings have not worked out at all over the last few years and that's why the team is already on vacation instead of continuing to march on in the postseason this year.

Hopefully, Olshey doesn't go into the offseason with this attitude. No coach is going to make this team championship contenders as constructed. Those kinds of teams are built around versatile wings, not small guards. Lillard is good enough to be the No. 1 option on a title team. That's the only thing clearly good about the roster as it stands. If Olshey doesn't recognize that, we may be closer to a possible Lillard trade request than we think.

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