There are major decisions looming for the Portland Trail Blazers. For ownership, front office and the coach.
The Trail Blazers are looking at a chance to win their 50th game of the season tonight against Memphis. And once again, Portland will have exceeded the win projections of a lot of people for the season.
ESPN projected a miss-the-playoffs 43 wins for the Trail Blazers. Las Vegas’ Westgate SuperBook put the number at 42.5.
And this came a season after Portland captured the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. That’s a lot of recent success.
I believe a lot of people would see the Trail Blazers as overachievers – and a team that is well-coached. When you maximize your talent, that’s usually a sign of quality coaching.
Coach Terry Stotts has certainly developed a winning culture and a winning system – even with the loss of two starters this season, the team has continued to play well and play hard.
But a decision on Stotts’ future is near. After this season, he has a year left on his contract but it’s a team option, which is exercisable five days after the team’s last playoff game. In other words, it's a one-way deal, with Stotts coming back if the team wants him or ... well, or not -- which would seem impossible.
His assistant coaches, it is believed, are on contracts that expire after this season and it would be difficult for the franchise to lose any of them. It’s a quality staff.
Understand that Stotts has faced this situation twice before and each time the team picked up the option and then extended his deal.
But this time could be different.
The NBA has seen what he’s accomplished in Portland this season and last. He’s going to be in demand much more than he’s ever been in his career. He could take the lack of an offer (or the size of the offer) of an extension as a lack of respect and be determined to test the free-agent waters next summer. Or he could just be yearning for a change of scenery.
In this situation I think a lot of teams would choose to tie him up long term, as soon as possible. So far, that hasn’t happened here and there’s always a chance he could sit back, coach through the extension and move on.
Team options have never been popular with coaches or players – but they take them because they usually come with attractive salaries. When Stotts signed his last extension it was reported the contract averaged $5 million per year.
That’s great money but in the context of the coaching salaries in the NBA, it doesn’t even place him in the top half. Certainly the success of the last two seasons will bring a much higher salary – wherever he coaches.
Jody Allen, the team’s new owner, will soon have a decision to make about her coach. And Stotts, too, will have a decision.
Even if/or when an extension is offered, would he take it? Or would he gamble on himself next season and see what the market for his services would be next summer?
Stotts, asked about his situation Monday, adamantly refused to comment on it.
Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations, will presumably be in on the Stotts decision, too. He also declined comment.
But Olshey may also be in line for an extension. He, too, could be in demand around the league because of his team’s success. He does have one more year on his contract than Stotts.
These are big decisions, and they could be very-expensive, franchise-altering decisions. And I haven't even mentioned that super-max contract Damian Lillard is almost certain to qualify for this summer.