Blazermanialives

Oct 30

Scottie's Preseason Analysis

By Blazermanialives

The Portland Trailblazers have just made the final cuts to their opening day roster. Here’s my take on the starting 5 and 2nd unit players.

The Starters-

PG - Damian Lillard

For the last decade, the Blazers have been looking for a franchise point guard to push them over the top to contender status. From what I have seen in the Summer League and preseason, Damian Lillard just may be that man.

Throughout the Summer League, Damian Lillard dominated his opponents. Through 4 games in Vegas, he put up a stat line of 26 PPG, 4 RPG, and 4 APG.

Lillard has continued to prove his worth in the preseason with averages of 16.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.8 APG. The one thing Lillard must do if he is to take his rightful place as a top tier point guard is cut down on his turnovers. While superstars such as Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are also turnover prone, if Lillard can strengthen his game in this area, he has potential to surpass even the very best scoring point guards.

SG - Wesley Matthews

Wesley Matthews has been known as a defensive force. While fans may have criticized his shot selection in the past, we could always hang our hat on his scrappy defense. That was a bit suspect in the preseason, however, as he allowed his opponents to shoot an average of 46% from the field.

Through 7 preseason games, Matthews averaged 14.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.1 APG.    So, we saw a different Matthews in the preseason. Maybe, he’s getting smarter on the offensive end.  Now, if he can just put it together on both ends of the floor, I think Matthews has the potential to be the shooting guard of the Blazer’s future.

 

SF - Nicolas Batum

For the first time in his 5 year career, Nicolas Batum appears ready to have a breakout season. He is definitely part of the team’s future after the Blazers matched a large contract offer by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He had a pretty good preseason, but needs to crank it up in the regular season to help the Blazers battle to the top, and justify his huge contract.

Through 7 preseason games, Nicolas has averaged 14.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, which is similar to what he produced last season. One take is that this performance shows consistency, which is great.  Another perspective is that he must step up in order for the team to excel in the future. Count me in the latter group. I believe Nicolas will prove himself a consistent contributor to the team in more ways than just being a shooter.

PF - LaMarcus Aldridge

For the first time since Brandon Roy left the Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge has his “Stockton”  in Damian Lillard. Throughout the preseason, Rookie Lillard was able to take on some of the scoring that LaMarcus has had to carry the last couple of years.

Through 7 preseason games, LaMarcus has become less of a force than he was in   an All-Star season where he averaged 21.7 PPG, 8 RPG, 0.8 BPG. This preseason, he averaged 15.3 PPG, 7 RPG, 1.5 APG; down 7 points and 1 rebound from last season.  This is of no major concern, though, as Aldridge will pick up more points and minutes as the season progresses.

With the addition of Meyers Leonard, Aldridge will stay fresher.  J.J. Hickson will play power forward while Leonard is on the floor. This is a great example of Portland’s depth new depth.

With a more widespread offense, the Blazers will have more surprises for the opposing defenders to deal with, thus opening up more shot opportunities.

 

C - J.J. Hickson

J.J. Hickson has proven that he was more than an anomaly with the Cavaliers.  At 6’9” and 242lbs, he’s a bit undersized to play the center position, yet does so quite effectively. If it were my decision, I would have started Meyers Leonard at center for his size and athleticism at 7’1’ and 245 lbs, at least long enough to get a look at how he will fare in that role.  However, starting Hickson makes sense given his strength, power, and experience.

With Hickson starting at center for now, let’s focus on his assets.  During preseason, J.J. Hickson racked up averages of 9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 BPG in 25 minutes of action. While this isn’t spectacular, he is a very strong, solid addition to the team. Over time, I expect Meyers to replace Hickson as the Blazers starting center.  This would allow Hickson to be a dominant, defensive force off the bench.  In any case, Hickson was a good pickup for the team.

The Second Unit and Beyond-

The Blazers second unit will likely include Ronnie Price, Nolan Smith, Victor Claver, Luke Babbitt, and Meyers Leonard. This unit has a good balance of young talent and experience to help give the starting unit a rest from a 48-minute shift. The second unit, as a total, averaged 25.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 8.2 APG in the preseason.

This is a good start as the bench continues to develop. Bench production will increase as each player’s career progresses, and the coaching staff refines both the rotation and roster. However, there are a couple of players who I believe should have made the cut. First, having watched him in the preseason, Coby Karl actually looked better than Nolan Smith. Somewhere along the line, some team has got to give this guy a legitimate chance. In truth, my reaction to the Adam Morrison cut is more of an emotional response. To see a player as great as he was in college, a former top-three pick, vow to retire if he didn’t make the team, was kind of a kick in the gut. Since Morrison is from the Northwest, I would have given him a shot, like the Kings did Isaiah Thomas.

To sum it all up, the Blazers have a great young core that is poised to become the next young and upcoming team. Let us not forget the 2010 Thunder. Many of the pieces look similar. And while the Northwest Division might be tight, let’s don’t count out the Blazers!

 

                                                

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