It’s here! The August 2019 edition of the Blazersland Mailbag!
What do you think about Mario Hezonja? Can he make an impact or is he going to sit much of the year? – kjironman1
Hezonja is a diamond in the rough type player who hasn’t seen his best basketball yet. He was the #5 pick in the 2015 draft, and he was touted as an elite shooter, having shot 38% from a far in the Euro league. That shooting never really materialized either in Orlando or New York. One reason for that is the Magic used him as a point forward and he only average 2.8 attempts a game. His focus was more so on ball handling, which he isn’t great at (he has a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio) though he became more capable in the position in his four years in Orlando.
Hezonja, at 6’8 and 240 pounds is a powerfully built athletic forward and though he might see time running the point while Lillard is on the bench,the Blazers would be better served playing him between both the forward positions. Kent Bazemore would be better off replacing Evan Turner, running the back up point. Hezonja is versatile player and the Blazers will need his size in the absence of Harkless and Aminu. Like Harkless he has issues with effort. Sometimes you get the good Hezonja, and more often you might get the bad/lazy Hezonja. Likewise much like Al Farouq Aminu, Hezonja will make a great play and then follow it up with a mistake that will leave fans scratching their heads.
That said the Blazers are the perfect fit for him. They almost had him last offseason, with sports announcer Adrian Wojnarowski making a faux pas in tweeting that the Blazers had reached an agreement with him, before he ultimately decided to go to the New York Knicks, moments later. Unlike the Blazers, the Magic and the Knicks were not winning teams nor were they run with anything even closely resembling precision. The Blazers are a new breath of fresh air for Hezonja. He can be successful here if he puts in the time and work.
Neil Olshey has already said that Hezonja will get a chance to play and to prove himself, while also throwing it out there, that he knows Hezonja is still an unfinished player who needs the right instruction and influence to reach his potential. He is probably working on his three point shot right now, maybe with childhood friend Jusuf Nurkic. He four years in Orlando he shot 33% from three and averaged 6.9 points, 2,8 rebounds, and 1,3 assists. Last year in New York he shot 28% from three while averaging 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Expect those numbers and percentages to rise in Portland, in a Terry Stotts system with a better offense and more shot attempts. He averaged just over 20 minutes a game in Orlando and about 18.5 in New York. He will probably average 15-16 minutes off the bench in Portland, not taking into account foul trouble.
Who of the Players now traded will get cheered and who booed when they play next in Portland in a different uniform if any? – riverman
The Trail Blazers traded Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Jake Layman this offseason. The most likely to get booed out of those three is Evan Turner. Highly overpaid, Turner was an odd fit for the team, often slowing the team down leading to runs by the opponent. That said, fans may remember his game 7 performance against Denver last postseason that helped get Portland to the conference finals and be less grouchy towards him.
Harkless who went between having high energy high production nights, and then disappearing for games at a time, might get some boos from sour fans, especially now that he is no the Clippers who are odds on favorite to win it all next year. I guess it might depend on his efforts. If he is pulling the disappearing trick with LA, fans might just cheer him.
I don’t see Meyers Leonard receiving many if any boos. Even though he spent five years in Portland teasing fans to whether he would ever reach a potential many thought he would, but never did, he is a very likeable guy. He will be cheered when he returns to Portland. It will be a warm welcome for “The Hammer.”
Jake Layman will receive the most affection from fans upon his return. A beacon of energy, Layman’s cuts and dunks will be missed. It is a shame Portland fans never got a chance to see him develop to his full potential as a Blazer, but they will be keeping an eye on him as he continues his journey in the NBA. Expect a standing ovation.
If we are to include players who left in free agency, then Enes Kanter might be booed by fans after flailing during contract discussions because he didn’t feel he had enough time to decide. But, really he is a good dude and said nothing but good things about Portland since his departure, despite rumors of the contrary. He was big reason Portland made it to the Western Conference Finals. He gave everything to Portland playing with a separated shoulder. He deserves cheers when he returns to the Moda Center in a Boston Celtics Uniform.
Seth Curry will be cheered on when he returns. Despite his troubles with production, he was a big help in stretching teams defenses to allow Dame and CJ to get better shots. One of the best three point shooters in the league, and an all around good guy, he was a fan favorite. For a long while it was if he scored ten points the Blazers won, which was fun to keep an eye on. Blazers fans also got treated to watching him face off against his brother in the Conference Finals.
Al Farouq Aminu likewise will receive cheers when he returns. He was a big part of Portland’s energy and defense, though he often scared the bejeezus out of many a fan with his dribbling. Ultimately the Blazes had to let him walk away in free agency in order to promote Zach Collins to starting power forward and usher in the next part of his development. Aminu will be missed and he will receive love from the fans when he returns.
Does the Miami Heat have a chance to make it to the playoffs this season? – Jay R
Welcome to a Heat fan! Miami will make the playoffs this season after trading for Jimmy Butler this offseason. They came within two games last season, finishing in 11th place at 39-43. There were rumors they were trying to trade for Chris Paul and then later that they were going after John Wall and Bradley Beal. If they somehow traded for Paul (they would need a third team) or for Wall and Beal, (even though Wall will be out much of the season) they might even finish a seed or two higher who knows.
As it is, the Heat are in a weak eastern conference, where only six teams or so that will finish with higher seeds (Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana, and perhaps Toronto even without Leonard – as long as they don’t trade everyone away and rebuild. Brooklyn might have a hard time without Durant for perhaps the whole season, though there is rumor he will try and return around February. The Pistons and the Hawks will be fighting for the 7th and 8th spots behind them probably. So the answer is yes, definitely yes.
With Harkless and Aminu gone should we be worried about our teams defense this season? – Eric M
No. So take a breath and rest any qualms. The Blazers aren’t going to miss a beat when it comes to defense ( and look at the roster, offensively they are set). The biggest concern that I have heard is the Blazers will be missing some length and versatility at the wing. It will be strange not having Harkless and Aminu around but Hood and Collins actually played better than them in the Playoffs on both ends of the floor. Hezonja and Bazemore are solid defenders and the Blazers haven’t lost much defensively at center with Whiteside and Gasol (Not to mention Tolliver and Skal) even without Nurkic for the beginning of the season. Rest assured the Blazers defense is sound.
Who is going to win it all next year? – Bryan B
If you ask me, every year I will swear the Blazers are going all the way. Realistically they might have a chance this season after making the western conference finals and then reloading the roster with upgrades. The shoo in of course by Vegas and analysts are the Los Angles Clippers, who added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George over the Summer. Below them the Lakers? Nah, totally overrated. Sorry HCP. If not the Blazers, than I think it might be the Clippers or the Bucks who will take over the East now that the Raptors are Leonardless. That would be a great series to watch. So, yeah it’s the Blazers, gotta be…duh!
With the 50th anniversary season coming up, what will be celebrated more, The inception of the Blazers or the upcoming season? – Jason O
Both. The Trail Blazers are planning a lot of surprises for the the fans this season, and it is going to be a very special one. The Blazers will be celebrating all through the season focusing on everything from the inception of the team, to the championship, to the golden years of the late eighties/earlier nineties, and so on. They will celebrate the greatest moments and the greatest players to play for the team. They will honor those who have passed and who have given so much both on the court and off. Expect them to pretty much cover the gist of it.
The Blazers will wear patches commemorating the anniversary, they may very well release a special jersey. I don’t know if wearing jerseys from years past will conflict with the agreement the NBA has with Nike, but wouldn’t that be great to see. There are going to be special pregame videos, appearances from past players, special giveaways at the arena, surprises for season ticket holders, etc etc. It will be the year of years for the Blazers, mark my words.
What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming season? – Char C
The Blazers have so many new players. I am most looking forward to getting to know them as players, to see how they fit together on the court. It is going to look good deal different than last season. It will be very exciting to see young guys like Anfernee Simons become a part of the rotation and to see how Zach Collins takes starting at PF this year. Something else I am looking forward to is that is the 50th anniversary season and there will be a lot of trips down memory lane. I am also excited to see how so many other teams will look after a dramatic offseason of change both through free agency and trade. All this taking about it, I can’t wait for the season to start.
Should I send my resume to Jody or Neil to be the new head coach? I mean I don’t have any experience in that stuff, but that shouldn’t matter right? – Dougnsalem
Well, Doug I might hold off on that. Head Coach Terry Stotts gets a lot of flack, but he got the Blazers to the Western Conference finals last postseason. He just got a multi year extension so I don’t think they are looking at the moment, not that you wouldn’t make a good coach…maybe…err…If you do send it, don’t send it to Neil Olshey because Stotts is his guy through and through. I am also plenty sure Jody has full confidence in Terry as well. Sorry man, maybe send it to Sly. I hear he has connections.
That is the August 2019 edition of Blazersland Mailbag. If you want to see your questions answered in the next edition, submit them via the mailbag form at Blazersland.com/submit-questions/ -OR- by emailing them directly to firstname.lastname@example.org