It’s Here! The September 2019 Edition of the Blazersland Mailbag!
Besides Anfernee Simons who would you guess would have a dark horse breakout season for the Blazers? And Why? – Hoopguru
Zach Collins, Skal Labissiere, Mario Hezonja in that order.
The first name that came immediately to mind is Zach Collins. Expect him to have a career season in Portland as he takes over the starting power forward position from outgoing forward Al Farouq Aminu, who left to join the Magic in free agency. Collins has been rehabbing from an ankle injury, but he hasn’t been complacent. He has been working hard on his game and has added on 20 pounds of muscle, which will be a big help for him in defending some of the NBA’s best bigs in the paint.
Collins already possesses an innate gritty, not going to back down attitude, and has proven to be a more than capable defender, and at times an efficient player on the offensive end. He is a high energy player and sometimes allows himself to get carried away in it. He has the ability to develop from a role player into a young star in this league. He is going to have to step up as he steps into a starting role. I don’t see an issue there. In fact, I believe that is the vehicle he needs to reach his true potential. He will need to find consistency and work on being smarter when it comes to fouls, but that will come with experience. He averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes last year.Zach Collins will have a break out season, mark my words.
Skal Labissiere is young and developing as well. He is far better than what Sacramento had the chance to see. He will flourish here in Portland. He has a good chance of overtaking Tolliver for the back up power forward position if he plays well enough. He also balked up gaining 20 pounds of muscle this offseason. He and Collins aren’t playing around. I can’t wait to see him unleash the beast and go Hulk on the league. Skal averaged 17.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per 36 minutes last season. We didn’t get the honor of seeing him in summer league as he nursed a shoulder injury. But, all we were hearing was how pleased the Blazers were with him.
Mario Hezonja may have a rebirth in Portland. He loves being in RIP City and is in the best shape of his career after working out all summer and practicing his shot. He never quite found himself in Orlando or New York, but that looks to change. He will be a sixth man off Portland’s bench. Hezonja could explode out the gates. He will have his best season yet in the NBA with Portland.
And of course there is Simons.
Skal, Tolliver, Hezonja, Trent Jr, Little and Hoard…who of these 5 will get rotation minutes on the bench? How would you project this list of guys to pan out rotation wise? I ask because they don’t get much ink…Skal and Mario more than the others in my view. – riverman
Hoard and Little will not be in the Blazers rotation. In fact they probably won’t see any playing time unless it’s garbage time or there are, basketball gods forbid, injuries. Trent Jr may see some minutes, but probably will be on the outs with Hoard and Little. It is only his second season. I know it’s only Anfernee Simon’s 2nd season as well, but he will be part of the rotation. So, why won’t Trent Jr you ask? Mark that down to circumstance/need/depth and a disparity in talent. Trent Jr is a 3rd stringer, but will probably get minutes ahead of the two rookies.
Hezonja will be part of the Blazers second unit most likely at the 3. Tolliver and Skal will battle for the 2nd string spot behind Collins at the 4. That is going to be one hell of a training camp. I think Skal could beat him out too, and Tolliver could be used for spot minutes.
They threw out the idea for a midseason tournament last year. Are you in favor of trying something like that? How would you do it? What would the winner get out of it? -TorturedBlazersFan
A mid season tournament is an intriguing idea. When it comes to basketball I am for the most part a traditionalist, but All Star weekend is in decline as I see it. There are no longer east and west teams because of disparity, and the new format hasn’t done much to staunch the yawns of bored fans. The annual game is still more exhibition than competition., and what fun is that? A midseason tournament could fix this dilemma.
Of course there issues that come to mind such as the increased risk of injury to players, wear and tear, not to mention convincing teams and players that it is worth it to put their bodies on the line in the middle of the season. For it to be successful, the tournament would have to be truly competitive and there would have to be real stakes at hand for the winner. So what would the format be and would be the stakes? One loss and your out? Or maybe something closer to what the summer league looks like? As for stakes, draft compensation? Higher odds for the draft lottery for the winner? A guaranteed additional 1st rnd pick. Some of the lower tier teams won’t be so happy about those stakes. It would difficult for them to have any real chance of winning. Maybe each game you win in the tournament takes a loss of your regular season record? There is a lot to be fleshed out, but it can be done, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is thinking very seriously about it, so it may happen. They have added several new rules including a coach challenge are considering a 1 free throw counting for 2 or 3 points change, so anything is possible.
With all the changes in the roster, both on the bench and starting lineup, what will the starting lineup be for the first regular season game? -Jason O
The starting lineup will be:
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: CJ McCollum
SF: Rodney Hood
PF: Zach Collins
C: Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside will stand in for injured Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins will take Aminu’s spot, and Hood seems to be the successor for Harkless. Bazemore could start there or perhaps Hezonja, but they will more than likely come off the bench at the 2 and 3 respectively. Hood is pretty locked in. Stotts likes to stay with what he is comfortable with. What he knows. He doesn’t have that option at center, though Nurkic will take back that starting spot when he returns. Stotts does have the option at the 3 and 4. Zach is Aminu’s successor, and Hood will be Stotts guy at the 3 to start the season.
What are the chances of the Blazers going to the playoffs -Jay R
Their chances are pretty good Jay. They have made the playoffs the last six seasons. Why not this season too? I wouldn’t say they are a 100% lock to make it because of all the variables, but I would probably say the same for most of the other teams in the conference. The Western Conference is the most wide open it has been in a long long time. There are so many teams that could potentially make the playoffs in the west, it is crazy. The Blazers are in the thick of it, and will most likely make it, as long as they can stay away from injuries and over come any issues regarding chemistry with all the changes that happened over the summer. And, should the Blazers make it, they have the ability to go as far as they did last year, if not further.
How do you feel about losing Vanterpool? Where are you on Jannero Pargo? -kjironman1
David Vanterpool was the Blazers biggest loss of the summer. Congrats to him in getting signed as the associate head coach of the Minnesota Timber Wolves. That said, the loss hurts. Vanterpool is a hell of a player development coach. He helped bring along Lillard and McCollum into their element. He would have been a big help with Simons. At least he got a year with him last season. Vanterpool’s ability and his relationship with players is hard to replace.
The jury is still out on Jannero Pargo for me. He doesn’t have a lot of experience coaching, though he brings over 14 year of NBA experience as a player. That gives him a unique perspective. As a former guard, he will be a big influence on Simon’s. I expect good things. I am excited to see what he has to bring to the table.
Bill Simmons Picked us (The Blazers) as a team that could miss the playoffs next year. He said everything went right for us last year(Hardly). Why aren’t we respected as a Western conference contender? We’ve won back to back 3 seeds and reached the WCF’S last season despite a season ending injury to Nurkic and injuries to Kanter. What is wrong with people? I personally think we could get the #1 seed this season. – Eric M
Eric, the Trail Blazers are often the casualty of underestimation and disrespect. NBA analysts seem to converge on the same thought season after season, that the Blazers will fail. Somebody has to, the Blazers I guess are an easy target. Some blame it on the small market, some point their finger towards a missing third star. This year it seems to be related to the spate of moves the Blazers made this summer.
There are only six returning players. That is a lot of turn around. Questions of chemistry are bound to come up. That said, most of the new guys know the remaining players on the roster. Many are good friends. It looks like chemistry issues will be few if any. So, what is next? A wide open Western Conference that yet again improved?
Every season analysts put the NBA teams in a police lineup and pick out the usual suspect: The Portland Trail Blazers. I say let them. I like the Blazers being the under dog, I like the underestimation. It’s fuel for the season ahead. I also say don’t take these analysts at face value. They make shotty witnesses.
Everything did not go right for Portland last season. They lost their owner Paul Allen, not to mention starting center Jusuf Nurkic went out with a season ending leg injury. Kanter went into the Playoffs in his place with one arm. That said, could Portland miss the playoffs next season? They could, but most probably they won’t. They have made the playoffs the last six seasons behind Damian Lillard, they took 3rd seed two seasons in a row, and reached the WCF’s last post season. The Blazers got better this summer. Lillard has already stated that getting the short end of the stick, puts a chip on his and his teammates shoulders. Let’s hope that chips is getting bigger. Let’s hope it acts as a reminder this season, as it has in seasons past to them. The result will remain the same. Keep doubting the Blazers and they will keep succeeding.
That is the September 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