Here is what we learned from the Blazers Preseason
1.) The Blazers offense looks better this year all around. They are going to shoot and make the three better this year. They are working on the fast break. They are attacking the paint.
2.) Seth Curry is better than Shabazz Napier. Not only can he be the consistent three point shooter the Blazers sorely need, he attacks the basket without pause. He is going to be phenomenal off the bench and in the three guard lineup with Dame and CJ.
3.) Nik Stauskas wasn’t as bad a pick up as was thought. Other teams tried to fit him in incongruous roles. Stotts has a knack for creating systems that cater to players strengths and hide their weaknesses. Stauskas is going to be a killer shooter for Portland off the bench.
4.) Zach Collins still has a lot of developing to do. He put on some muscle this summer, and is getting used to his new frame. His scrappy mindset helps to offset his blunders. He needs to work on his hands. He was 15 and 10 in the last preseason game. His high post jumper is a thing of beauty. If he can have a similar performance consistently, the Blazers won’t miss Ed Davis as much.
5.) Meyers Leonard may be finally tired of all the criticism and ready to show he can play the game. During preseason it was obvious he was still in his head at times, especially on defense. He often seemed a bit lost. Too, he plays mostly out at the arc, and is not around the basket to rebound. In the last preseason game against the Kings he seemed to get this and finished with nine boards. His offense has been impeccable. His three on point. He had the best field goal percentage in the preseason. Meyers is for real.
6.) Caleb Swanigan isn’t quite ready for a role in the rotation. He belongs on a court, the G League court. He needs to work on his body movement, spacing, hands, shooting…ok he needs to work on just about everything. He can pass adeptly. He’s scrappy. He is a workhorse. There is still a lot of work to do.
7.) CJ McCollum is working on passing the ball. It looks good when he does, instead of taking horribly contested shots around the key. That is not the shot we are looking for CJ. Keeping working on passing. I know it is an alien concept for you.
8.) Blazers are valuing assists. The Blazers averaged 19 assists last season. So far in the preseason that is up to 25. Part of that is the Blazers have players besides Dame and CJ that can shoot.
9.) Blazers are rebounding. The Blazers are matching their rebound numbers from last year. 45 a game. Well, minus an offensive board. Not bad though minus Ed Davis. We will see how it translates.
10.) The Blazers are deeper than they look. The Blazers have a lot of guys who put in some work this preseason. Harkless hasn’t played, Aminu played limited minutes, as did Dame and CJ. The Blazers bench produced. Good.
11.) Evan Turner is still a terrible fit. Turner stunk it up during the preseason, taking terrible shots, missing seemingly unmissable open shots right at the basket. Not to mention the turnovers. I hope he shapes it up for the regular season.
12.) Jake Layman can play. He had 18 points in the first quarter of the second suns game. Finished with 29. He has been showing he can play this preseason. He has put on muscle and put in the work. I expect him to be in the rotation and eventually beat out Turner. Layman will play at the 4 as well as the 3.
13.) Baldwin has disappointed. After his play at the end of last season, I had hoped he would make a jump this offseason. As it is he will miss out of the rotation, pushed behind Curry, and be on the outside looking in. Maybe he thought the back up point was his till Curry showed up. Keep your head up kid. Constant vigalance.
14.) Nurkic is expanding his offense. Nurkic showed off a new three point shot this preseason, hitting them in the early games before shooting terribly from the arc to end the preseason. He still needs to develop it more, but it could be a potent weapon for the Blazers.
Note: The preseason is probably not a clear representation of what to expect in the regular season, but if anything we can glean a solid indication that the team is headed the right way.