Portland star and leader, Lillard has had a tough season, working to break down suffocating double teams, a defensive scheme that has been on display since it was used successfully by the Pelicans to stop the Blazers in the playoffs. But, both defensive pressure, and the pressure of leading a young Blazers team have not stop him from averaging 26+ points a game. He has helped Portland to a 24-17 record at the halfway point, their best since 2014-15.
Lillard is working extra this season to get his teammates more involved in the offense averaging 6+ assists a game. He is an unstoppable force, playing sick, putting the team on his back, and getting his Dame time in.
He is looking a little worn out as of late, and jacks up some pretty long threes, but there really isn’t much to complain about when it comes to Lillard. He is a perennial all-star and a very rare franchise player, who gives his best on and off the court.
The Blazers second in command has been struggling for sometime and has been inconsistent. One night he will take over a game, then seemingly struggle for a string of games, before taking over another, in a daunting cycle. Is it a slump? Is it that he is taking low percentage shots? He is shooting 33% from the arc but, 51% from inside for the season, averaging 20.8 pts per game, so maybe it is not as bad as it appears to be some nights.
McCollum and Lillard are one of the best back courts in the NBA. The problem is that they play parallel to one another rather than with each other. Someone needs to tell them to go with the grain and not against it. They need to pass to each other more, and Portland will be better off for it. CJ often over dribbles in an attempt to get open shots or a path to the rim and takes a low percentage shot or turns the ball over. Less dribbling, more passing, and moving off the ball to get open instead will help.
The Bosnian Beast is alive and kicking. Nurkic has played fantastic down this last stretch into the middle of the season. He was playing well early on too, but was a little slower on his feet, and wasn’t as active. Part of the problem was Portland not playing through him on the pick and roll or feeding him inside enough. But, hr has been hungry and has been playing his best basketball. He just made history as the first player in the NBA to have a 20-20-5-5-5 game with a 24 pt, 23 rbnd, 7 Blocks, 5 assists, and 5 steals showing against the Kings. Keep going to Nurk. The fever is back and hopefully here to stay.
Al Farouq Aminu:
Chief Aminu has been a beacon of energy for the Blazers, playing impressive defense, putting extra effort on putbacks and rebounds, and being a spark on the offense. He is only averaging 9.4 pts and 8.2 rebounds a game, but he does a lot of things that don’t show up in the stats.
He has been better on the dribble, and has developed a better inside game. He can be explosive, but he can also hurt the Blazers when he has off nights from the arc. He still inconsistent from the there, but is shooting 35% on the season. He needs to keep working on that shot so it falls more often. He isn’t your standard power forward, but in a league that has moved towards stretch bigs, he gets the job done, for the most part. He struggles against conventional bigs, but gives all he has got to the game.
Harkless has struggled to heal from a nagging knee injury. He missed the early part of the season and continues to miss games here and there due to continued soreness. Problematic, as he had the whole summer to heal.
Since returning he has been mostly “good” Moe, like Aminu bringing extra energy to the game. He can be a swiss army knife, shooting from anywhere, playing exceptional defense, going after loose balls, creating fast break opportunities off of steals, showing extra effort on putbacks and rebounds, etc etc.
“Bad” Moe does none of those things. So, it is key to keep his confidence up. So far this season, that hasn’t been a problem. He has played well, when he has played. He needs to get that knee to heal, so he can help the Blazers down the stretch and in the playoffs should they get there.
Blazers third year forward has made huge leaps and bounds over the summer. He started in place of Harkless for the first part of the season. While his overall stats may not look that great, he has had several games where he has brought huge levels of intensity to the game off the bench lately, hitting shots, cutting to the basket with amazing speed and ease.
It looks like he may have found his way into coach Stott’s rotation. Hopefully, because his good play seems to often be overlooked and he will mount several DNP’s till we see him again. A struggling Blazer’s bench need his help.
Turner has wrestled with fitting in Portland’s system. Stotts tried to make him into another three point shooter, but Turner can’t shoot the three to save his life. He is averaging just 14% on the season from the arc. Stotts is now using him as a backup point guard whose main task is to distribute the ball. He hasn’t done so great averaging just over 3 assists a game. He turns the ball over more than not and staunches the offense.
He has played better as of late, shooting well at the basket and elbow. He is starting to earn that oversized contract. He needs to focus more on helping keep the offense moving and passing into assists. He can be a bit selfish when he is on the floor passing up open teammates.
Legend has been redubbed “The Hammer, and he is living up to the new nickname, throwing down epic dunks. He has come a good distance from the Meyers fans were giving up on. But, he still has nagging bits of the old Meyers in him, and gets frustrating to watch. He is damn awkward setting screens, sets additional unnecessary ones instead of popping out for an easy shot. He still hesitates far to often and passes up good shots.
That said he is a prolific three point shooter. When he doesn’t hesitate and takes the shot it is almost always in. He is shooting 41% from far and 51% inside on the season. Whether the reason he hesitates is due to Stotts dictating who takes shots, or a continued lack of confidence, it needs to stop. The more Stotts shows confidence in Meyers, the more he will have in himself. He is capable of producing more, and the Blazers could use it.
The Blazers back up big man has struggled in his second year after Ed Davis left in free agency and he was awarded with more minutes. The loss of Davis who was a good teacher for Zach, has set him back. Maybe Portland forced Collins to take more responsibility too soon.
Still, his stats have risen this season up 3 pts and a rebound. Not, what the Blazers hoped for exactly, but it is progress. It seems like he is not at the same level on defense, committing too many ticky tacky fouls and not having the impact on the glass and blocking the ball, but again his numbers are up. Part of it is playing next to Meyers Leonard who plays away from the rim and leaves Collins alone in there to guard the paint. Collins needs to keep working, and it will come. He is young and has a long career ahead of him.
GRADE: C –
Portland signed Curry this offseason to replace the outgoing Shabazz Napier, but he has played more of a shooting role than one based around distribution. He took a year off to recover from a stress fracture in his leg and took sometime to get his feet under him and find his shot.
He has become a somewhat steady production of offense off the bench. He is still a bit, inconsistent, but when he is feeling it watch out. He is shooting a smoking hot 48% from the arc. When he gets a little more time, consistency will follow. When he makes at least 9 points in a game, the Blazers are 9-0.
The Blazers other signing of the summer, Stauskas has disappointed after an amazing debut. He put up 24 points against the Lakers, and hasn’t done much since. He has struggled from the 3 shooting 34% and averaging just 2.9 attempts from the arc. He has shot better at the basket, but has gone downhill with his production averaging just 6.2 pts per game. He has all but been replaced in the rotation by Jake Layman.
Baldwin has been a disappointment this season after showing glimpses of talent on defense at the end of last year. He hasn’t gotten much playing time with only 72 minutes total this season almost exclusively in garbage time. What he has shown when he has played this year has not been pleasing. He has not been in the rotation and was shipped to the G league in Texas with teammate Caleb Swanigan.
Watching Caleb play makes me wish the Blazers had moved him instead of Vonleh at the deadline last season. He is young and terribly raw. He just isn’t ready for the NBA. He is a hard worker and has a great story, but when he has played, mostly in garbage time, it has not been pretty. He has bad hands, something there is no remedy for. I doubt he lasts another season. That said, he is young and needs a lot more time to develop. He was assigned to G league in Texas, a good place for him.
The Blazers rookie is very young. Just out of high school young. No one expected much from him, but he has shown glimpses of what he could become. His potential is crazy. This kid is fast and get to the rim with ease. His shot is ever smooth. There have been a lot of Blazers who ride the bench and never amount to much. I sincerely hope the Blazers don’t waste this kids talent. He can be something fantastic in this league, and it would be a shame to see it never be realized.
Gary Trent Jr:
Portland’s other rookie, the Blazers bought into the second round to get him. He hasn’t played much, but in garbage time. At times he looks like he could be a solid role player, at others he is frustrating to watch. It will be interesting to watch him develop. He gets compared to his father who played in Portland, but I think he can be even better. No offense Sr.