Monday night's loss to the Suns
officially eliminated the Trail Blazers from playoff contention. It's been a long shot for a while, at least since the trade deadline, but now it's mathematically impossible.
But even though the playoffs are out of the picture, there's still plenty to play for, even as LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford are all set to miss some or all of the final four games on the schedule.
Many of the young guys are trying to prove they deserve more minutes next season, while the soon-to-be free agents would probably like to prove they deserve more money, or at least the same amount they received in their last contract. And hopefully pride in a job well done is always first and foremost in a players' mind before he takes the court. That should never go away, playoff eliminated or not.
But there's also an individual goal that is still attainable this season: Luke Babbit, as pointed out by Matt Calkins in an excellent profile of the second-year forward
, can finish the season leading the NBA in three-point percentage. Sitting at 37 on the season, all Babbitt needs to do is make seven or more three-pointers while keeping his shooting percentage roughly above 46 percent in the final four games.
Why seven? It breaks down like this. In a regular 82-game NBA season, a player needs to make at least 55 three-pointers to "qualify" for the league leaders list in three-point percentage. But in this lockout-shortened 66-game season, a player needs 44 three-point makes to qualify. Why 44? Because 66 games (the number of games this season) divided by 82 games (the number of games in a regular NBA season) times 55 (the number of three-pointers needed to qualify in a regular NBA season) equals 44.26. And since you can't make one quarter of a three-pointer, we round down and come to 44 made three-pointers.
(By the way, this has been verified by Elias Sports Bureau. I wouldn't trust my logic or math, and nor should you.)
Winning the three-point title isn't anything to get super excited about, but it would still be neat for the organization and especially for Luke, who has logged 26 DNPs this year while waiting patiently for his chance to play. The most recent winners
, be it Matt Bonner, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow or Jason Kapono, aren't exactly household names, but they're all players who have had or are likely to have long careers in the NBA shooting the long ball. It wasn't so long ago when people questioned if Babbitt would have any kind of career in the NBA. Leading the league in three-point percentage would put those questions to rest for good.
What's more, if Jamal Crawford stays atop the free-throw percentage leaders
(he's currently in first at 92 percent on the season), and if Babbitt gets in seven three-point makes in the last four games, the Trail Blazers would be only the second team in NBA history to have the league's best three-point and free-throw shooter on the same roster (Anthony Peeler and Peja Stojakovic of the 2003-04 Kings lead the league in three-point and free-throw percentage, respectively).
As a team, the Trail Blazers are 15th in three-point shooting
at 35 percent and are just 0.004 percentage points behind the Thunder for first in the league in free-throw shooting at 80 percent
So even though it might not seem like it at times, there's still motivation for the Trail Blazers to go out and play their best. Of course the best motivation comes from Trail Blazers fans, a group that leads the league every year in various categories.