The Portland Trail Blazers are in rebuilding mode, and while the team is just 4.5 games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference, having only eight games to make up the distance doesn't bode well for a team that has struggled throughout the 2011-12 NBA season.
The idea of tanking in sports is a sensitive subject. Nobody wants to admit that it's happening, but at the same time it can sometimes be in the best interest of a franchise that is unable to compete at a high level.
While the Blazers appear to be fighting for a spot in the upcoming NBA playoffs, Monday night's loss to the Houston Rockets might be a sign that it's not going to happen this year, and that building for a better tomorrow might be the angle to go for the rest of the current season.
At its most fundamental level, the reason to tank at any point in a season is to obtain a higher draft pick.
If the Trail Blazers tank the rest of the season, they are in the lottery and have a chance at further rebuilding the roster next season.
The NBA's lottery system should theoretically deter tanking, as there is no guarantee of obtaining a top pick. The Association, however, offers teams as high as 14th in the league a chance to get into the top three, so for a team like Portland, getting into the lottery could be a far better option than making the playoffs this season.
Following a year where college stars stayed in school because of the uncertainty surrounding the NBA lockout, the 2012 NBA draft could prove to be one of the deepest the league has seen in years.
If the team can finish in the bottom half of the league this season, and New Jersey avoids a top-three pick in the upcoming draft, Portland ends up with two lottery picks and can accelerate the rebuilding process to become relevant again as early as next season.
While getting into the lottery is the ultimate reason to tank a season, having such a strong draft class is simply added incentive to tank at this point in the year.
The Trail Blazers have made the playoffs three years in a row now, but haven't seen the second round of the postseason since the demoralizing defeat in the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
If the team still had Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, it could be argued that talent alone would be the one thing that could propel this team into the second round. Having sent away the two starters at the deadline, though, and not getting a single one in return, a deep run in the playoffs is seemingly a pipe dream at this point with the roster the way it's currently constructed.
Losing in the first round year after year doesn't make the team any better, so getting into the lottery would be far more beneficial than pretending this team has a deep run somewhere inside it.
Utilizing the youth on the roster will help the Trail Blazers whether they end up in the postseason or the lottery at the season's end.
If the team does end up finding itself in the playoffs this season, the young guys on the roster are going to need to be ready considering the team dealt away two starters at the deadline this season.
In the more likely scenario, though, where Portland does not make the playoffs this year, playing the young guys on the roster will help propel the team deeper into the lottery and help evaluate who will make the cut on a roster that is very much up in the air for next season.
The last time the Trail Blazers went through a rebuilding stage, the team ended up with a promising core group of Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden.
Things clearly haven't gone as planned, though, as the team once again finds itself in rebuilding mode with the 2011-12 NBA season coming to a close.
Following the deals made at the deadline this season, making the lottery is the best way to continue building a roster that has so many question marks heading into next season.
Portland has never been a big-time free-agent destination, so obtaining lottery picks will allow the team to once again try and build through the draft, or trade them to acquire big-name players right away.