The Los Angeles Lakers have missed the playoffs four years in a row, while the Portland Trail Blazers have made the playoffs four years in a row. The Lakers could reverse their fortunes in one offseason. If Portland were in L.A.’s shoes, though, the path to success would be far more arduous.
“I do think our margin for error is a little narrower,” Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “From a viability standpoint, if you make a real mistake in the draft, you can’t buy your way out of that mistake through free agency maybe as readily as you can in other places. That said, I’m incredibly lucky to have guys like Steve Rosenberry and Bill Branch and Joe Cronin working with me, specifically on the draft and on pro personnel decisions. It’s invaluable what all those guys bring to the table. We work as a group. And we’ve been lucky that in two drafts we’ve dialed in on players. They just happened to be players that maybe faced a stigma of being from small schools.”
Those players, of course, are Damian Lillard, who went to Weber State, and C.J. McCollum, who went to Lehigh. They averaged 27.0 and 23.0 points per game, respectively, this season.
“I think the more success guys like Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Steph Curry, Kenneth Faried – I’m leaving guys out – that are from the smaller schools that go on to outstanding All-Star-caliber careers, it demystifies that you have to be from a BCS team in order to be a successful NBA player,” Olshey said. “Both of our guys came into the league with a little bit of a chip on their should because they didn’t go to those schools because they had a myriad of other options. They went because they were under-recruited, they were late-bloomers and improved exponentially once they got on to campus.
“So I think we also benefit from the fact that while being in Portland – where we’re maybe not an A-list destination for free agents on a yearly basis – those guys take great pride in almost replicating what they had with their college situation in being a team that’s made the playoffs in four straight years with different roster compositions coming from a smaller market. That’s kind of what they’re used to, and it’s the model they’re used to operating under.”