After a sometimes competitive but mostly lopsided series, the Portland Trail Blazers were knocked out by the LA Lakers in the first round.
The Blazers were definitely unfortunate. If it hadn't been for the absence of their starting center in Jusuf Nurkic, the team would likely have had a higher seed, and hence a weaker opponent in the first round.
With everything said and done though, what do the Portland Trail Blazers need to do to contend for an NBA Championship?
The Portland Trail Blazers need defense
The team needs better defense - this is absolutely true for the Portland Trail Blazers, and is something that critics have been targeting for a while now.
Portland fans want to believe that their team is a serious contender, but their weaknesses were well and truly exposed against the LA Lakers. The Portland Trail Blazers' defense was helpless too often in the playoffs against a Lakers team whose offense was more than just struggling from deep.
Big minutes were given to the 36-year-old Carmelo Anthony, but it wasn't just for his offensive output. The Portland Trail Blazers expected good defense out of Anthony, who is a player who has been below average on that end throughout his career.
While Hassan Whiteside did help the team on the defensive end, his frankly outdated skill-set make it hard to justify giving him more than 25 minutes per game.
As a franchise that was ranked to have the third-worst defense in the NBA during this past regular season, the Portland Trail Blazers direly need good defense. No matter how elite the team's offense may be, if there is no defense, there will be no NBA championship.
Now that we know what the Trail Blazers have to do, let's see how they can accomplish it.
Tough decisions need to be taken
Yes, both of them have their moments defensively, but the fact of the matter is that in important moments, their output on this side of the floor is inadequate to say the least.
Throughout history, all successful franchises have had a backcourt that has been balanced out to perform on both sides of the floor, with the most recent example being the Golden State Warriors.
While Thompson is also arguably one of the greatest shooters of all time, his outstanding defense has been a major reason for the Warriors' success and is a highly underrated aspect of their dominance over the last five years.
While many may argue the Toronto Raptors to be an exception to this fact, the impact of Kawhi Leonard last year and Pascal Siakam this year must be considered. Both players are elite defensively, and hugely made up for their backcourts' deficiencies.
It is unlikely that the Portland Trail Blazers find a player of Leonard's or Siakam's caliber, which leaves them with only one option.
If they continue to build around Damian Lillard, they must trade CJ McCollum for a shooting guard better adept at defense. This would be a tough decision, to say the least. But if the Portland Trail Blazers are serious about winning a championship, they will have to at least consider this route.
Damian Lillard is already 30 and the rest of their roster isn't very young either, which means the Trail Blazers need a 'win now' mentality.
McCollum will have high trade value, and the franchise can use that to acquire the resources to trade for elite defensive guards. Players such as DeMar DeRozan, and even J.R. Smith would be huge additions to this team, and can potentially transform this franchise into one capable of contending for an NBA Championship.
With the team's every weakness exposed to the world, the ball is now in the Portland Trail Blazers' court.
Published 30 Aug 2020, 22:24 IST