The Blazers will face off against Ex Blazers Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier for the first time since they left in free agency last summer, when they play the Nets this evening in Brooklyn. Before the season started I broke down the possible rotations that Terry Stotts would likely go with. I was wrong about a few things, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I thought Baldwin would beat out Curry who was rejunvenating his leg after a season off. It took less time then I imagined for him to get his feet back under him. I also thought Stotts would forgo Meyers Leonard and opt to play Collins at backup center and stagger stretch forwards Harkless and Layman between the backup 3 and 4. While Stotts has played Layman at the backup 4, he has also used Collins there and utilized Meyers Leonard at the backup 5. Let’s take a broader look at how the rotation has evolved.
Not long into the season, it became evident which way coach Terry Stotts was going with the rotation. He started Jake Layman in the place of injured Maurice Harkless, along side Lillard, McCollum, Aminu, and Nurkic. Evan Turner was usually the first off the bench with Collins or Meyers. With Ed Davis gone, Stotts put a lot of faith in Meyers Leonard at the back up 5, and Leonard didn’t terribly disappoint. With his new alter ego, “The Hammer” he has been throwing down dunks, setting apt screens, and shooting 3s at the top of the arc to help the offense. Turner and Curry replaced Connaughton and Napier.
Beginning the second and fourth quarters, Stotts went with a true 2nd unit of Seth Curry, Nik Stauskas, Evan Turner, Zach Collins, and Meyers Leonard. Wade Baldwin, Caleb Swanigan, and the two rookies were not in the rotation, as Stotts sought exclusively to rely on experience rather than work in youngsters. No surprise there. With his prone proclivity to turn the ball over and hurt the offense, I was down on Evan Turner to start the season. I was not excited to see him play. I’m still not really. But, he has played better than expected taking time at the backup point and the wing. His turnovers are down a clip and his production up. He has actually been, dare I say it, somewhat of a good presence in the second unit. The Bench is a step up this year, I’d use the word existent.
As the season moved on, Stauskas, whose production was never quite sustainable after a spectacular start in the home opener again the Lakers, fell out of the rotation, appearing here and there. Maurice Harkless returned from injury to the starting lineup, and Jake Layman moved back to the bench for sometime before Stotts realized his production value and placed him back in the rotation. Layman has played at the back up 4,3, and at times even the 2. With more minutes going to Layman, less have gone to Collins/Meyers. Harkless has missed games on and off because of his ailing knee, so the rotation changes a bit depending on if he is available or not, with Turner or Layman starting in his place.
Stotts decided against staggering Lillard and CJ like he did last year. It seems he is trying to cultivate a bench presence, and that is perhaps best done letting them run true. Though, we still see Lillard or McCollum in while the other is sitting, they play most of their minutes together. If Stotts could get Lillard and McCollum to play through each other that would be a sight to behold, but hey is no miracle worker.
The rotation was pretty set till the trade deadline, when Portland traded Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin for wing Rodney Hood, and signed big man Enes Kanter in the buyout market. These moves will make things a bit clearer for Stotts. Enes Kanter will be the backup 5, meaning Meyers Leonard will ride the bench. Collins has struggled this year, but playing next to Kanter will help him a good deal, and he will play next to Kanter when Jake Layman isn’t. Hood will take minutes from Curry and maybe Turner, but with Layman likely playing most of his minutes at the backup 4, it should even out. We will likely see the following rotation for the rest of the year.
- Damian Lillard
- CJ McCollum
- Maurice Harkless
- Al Farouq Aminu
- Jusuf Nurkic
- Seth Curry
- Evan Turner
- Rodney Hood
- Jake Layman/Zach Collins
- Enes Kanter
Odd Men Out:
- Meyers Leonard – though based on foul trouble/match-ups we may see him here and there
- Skal Labissiere
- Anfernee Simons
- Gary Trent Jr
What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment of the rotation? How do you see the rotation going for the rest of the season? How will it change come the playoffs? Share your opinions below in the comments.