I think we have come to the point in the season where we have an enough of a sample size to determine if the players on this team have made progress this year. I find that when watching one game after the other I get lost in all the emotions, and tend to think of players as being as good as their last performance, or at least as good as their last month. That is not really fair, so I wanted to take some time and break down each rotation player for the Blazers and see through stats what progress if any they have made from last year.
We all know this story by now, he is the first Blazer All-Star in what feels like a decade, and the undisputed leader of this team. But we could see him starting to show those signs last year, when he seemed to make clutch shot after clutch shot. So when looking at the stats, how much progress has he made? Well statistically almost all of his numbers are up across the board, accept for his shooting percentages. That happens to a lot of players as they make the transition from starter to Star of the team. Last year his 3pt percentage was a healthy .377 and he improved his shot in almost each month of the season, this year it is almost the exact opposite. He started out very hot, hitting over 40%, then went ice cold in December hitting under 19% for the month. His over all percentage of 33% is decent, but after hitting 37% last year, I would hope he could improve it next year. As we have all noticed recently his free throw percentage has dipped this year as well down to 76% from 84% last year.
In every other stat Brandon has improved his game remarkably, he is playing more minutes, but his per 40 minute averages are up as well. 20.4 ppg per/40 this year, as opposed to 18.9 last year. 6.1 assists per/40 this year, compared to 4.6 last year, his assist rate has climbed by 3.3 from 18.9 to 22.2. And his turnover rate has dropped by over 2 again while playing more minutes. His rebounding is about the same, he gets a few more this year, but his rebounding rate is about even, (5.1 vs. 5.0). All in all, I think it is obvious that Brandon has really improved this year, and hopefully we can see a similar improvement from his next year. If all he does is improve his shooting percentages, especially his free throw percentage, he will average 22+ ppg next year.
Brandon's PER rating this year, is 19.85, (up from 18.08 last year).
For all the talk we here about the Blazers being tired in the second half of the season, LMA's numbers show it the most. In November, he avg 18.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg while shooting 53%. He scored in double figures every game accept 2, and had 5 of this 11 double doubles this season. He got to the line 4.6 times a game in November as well. Ever since he came back after missing those 5 games in December, his numbers have dropped, especially his shooting percentages and free throw attempted. January was by far his worse month, shooting only 42%, 3.6 free throw attempts, 15.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and only 2 double doubles, both in the first 2 games of the month. He has rebounded in February a little bit shooting 46% for the month, 4 free throws attempted, 16.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.2 blocks, (by far his best month for blocks) and 3 double doubles.
Over all LaMarcus has improved from last year, his minutes are way up, (12.3 more per game), and so is his production. He is avg 7.9 more ppg, 2.4 more rebounds per game, .2 more blocks per game, and .9 more assists per game. He has improved his FT percentage, but his lower FG percentage brings his True shooting percentage down to 52.1 from 53.3 in his rookie year. His points per 40 minutes have increase to 19.9 from 16.3, and his assists per 40 have increased to 1.6 from .7. However his rebounds per 40 have actually dropped from his rookie year, down to 8.5 from 9.0, and his rebounding rate has dipped to 12.5, (down from 13.9 last year). Over all LMA has improved, but he still has along way to go, especially in rebounding.
LaMarcus's PER has increased this year to 18.01, (from 17.17 last year)
Has Steve Blake improved? Well that depends, do we want to compare him to his time in Mil last year, or his time in Denver? It seems obvious that Steve did not enjoy his time with the Bucks, he was used sparingly, (only 17.6 mpg) and didn't play very well when he did get used. However once he was traded to Denver he played like we here in Portland expect him to play. He was consistent, and steady on a team full of inconsistent, knuckleheads, (ok that is my opinion not a fact, but you get the idea). Looking at Steve's career it is clear that there is something to playing in a place where you feel at home. His best two years are by far those he has spent in Portland, including this year. Compared to last year, his point's p/40 and rebounds p/40 are up while his assists p/40 and turnover rate are down. This I am sure is because of the style difference between Denver and Portland. His true shooting percentage is 53.3 which is pretty close to his career high of 54.9 sent in 2005-06 when he last played for the Blazers. I don't know that I would say Steve has improved, but I can say for sure that he is comfortable where he is at, and I believe he wants to retire a Blazer, even if it costs him a few dollars on his next contract.
Steve's PER this year is 12.33, (up from 9.98 last year).
What is obvious when looking at Channing Frye is that he hated New York last year. The guy is a joy to read on his blog, and surprisingly funny. His game has some holes, but he is a hard worker and is getting better. Last year was a horrible year for him in New York. His FG% dropped by 4.3%, his FT % dropped by 4% his points p/40 dropped by 6, rebounds p/40 dropped by 1.2, his true shooting % dropped by 7.7% and his usage rate dropped by 3.4 points. This year his numbers are back up toward his rookie season, although not quite there yet. His FG% is back up to 47% and his FT % is up to 80%. His usage rate is the lowest of his career at 17.7, but his rebounding rate is back up over 14.
While his numbers this year are better than last year for the most part, they are not as good as his rookie year, which makes me think, the Channing we see now, is the Channing we will see over the coming years. Last year was an aberration, I expect Frye's per/40 numbers to remain consistent from here out over his career. So has he improved? Well yes, in the fact that he has rebounded from a horrible year, and shown that his rookie year wasn't the fluke year, but his 2nd year was.
Channing's PER this year is 13.41, (up from 10.5 last year)
Jack is one the main reasons I started this research, so many opinions on this guy, he is good, accept when he is bad, pretty much sums him up to me. And over the last month we have seen a big increase in the "trade Jack" posts here because of some pretty horrible turnover problems. However when I looked at Jacks numbers for February, it is actually his best offensive month of the season, averaging 11.8 pts, 4.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds while shooting 47% over all, 33% on 3's and 91% on free throws. If he was averaging those numbers for the season I think we all might let his turnovers slide a bit more than we do now. Unfortunately he is not, his season totals are 9.7 pts, 3.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds on 43% over all FG%, 33% 3pt, and 86% on free throws. Not nearly as impressive. Jack's problems to me this year, are not about his offense, it is about his turnovers, and even more so about his silly turnovers, as well as his inability to run a break. Jack is second to last in turnover ratio for SG at 15.7, (if he was listed as a point guard he would still be second to last, right below another Blazer we will get to soon). That is a steep increase from last year, where he rated at 13.1, (that same ratio this year would place him 10 spots better for both positions).
His FG% is down this year to a career low 43%, his points per 40 are about the same, his rebounds per 40 are up, his assists are down, and his usage rate is very similar. His minutes played are down by almost 5 per game, which accounts for his lower scoring total of 9.7 per game, (he was at 12 ppg last year, in 33.4 minutes). Over all I think Jack's third year has been a disappointment, he has increased his turnovers in less minutes per game, and his shooting percentages have all gone down.
Jack's PER is 12.69, (down from 14.62 last year).
It is hard to look at James's stats and determine if he has improved or if the change of teams has just affected his game that much. This year is by far his best year as a pro, his shooting percentages are up across the board, especially his 3pt% which has skyrocketed to over 48%, and full 10% better than any of his previous years. His true shooting percentage of 66.9% leads the entire NBA! So is this improvement because of the work he has put in, or it is simply a different system on a different team? I think anyone would have a hard time saying that you get easier shots while playing for the Blazers than you do while playing for the Suns. So if that is not the case, then has Jones really improved his shot that much and can we expect him to play this lights out for the rest of his career? I think this is a case of the statistical anomaly, which we see in players from time to time. He is playing over his head this season, and if he didn't have the injury problems it would have landed him a bigger deal had he opted out this summer.
James is playing more minutes than last year by about 5 more per game, his usage rate has actually decreased a few points, while his points per 40 and assist ratio have improved. I don't think James has really improved over all this season however, most of his statistical improvements have been in the scoring department because of his outlandish shooting percentages, however the rest of this statistics are pretty similar to his career numbers. So while we will enjoy his play this year, I think we might see him come down to earth a bit next year, which isn't a horrible thing, as his "earth" is still 40% on 3pt FGs, 87% on FT's and solid defense and experience.
James's PER this year is 15.79, (Up from 10.81 last year, and is a career high).
Travis has made major strides this year in his development. While Dave has correctly observed that he now needs to bring that every night for the rest of his career, we can see that he is starting to get to that place in his career. His stats are up across the board, both in totals and in per 40 min averages. His minutes are up by 4, his FG% is up slightly, his 3pt % is the best of his career at 40% and his ppg and rebounds per game are career highs at 13.5 and 4.8 respectfully, (his assists are a career high as well at 1.3 per game). All of which reflect his career high usage rate of 23.5. Somewhere during this season Outlaw has figured out that he can score on anyone and everyone, and he can rebound the ball! Looking at his game log you can see that his PPG have increased every month, starting from 9.3 in November and finishing at a season high 15.5 in February. What has not increased over the season is his FG%, accept for a very good month of January, (49%FG 58% 3pt) he has been around 43% for the season, what has increased is the number of shots he is taking. 131 total shots taken in November, 178 in December, 172 in January, and 178 with one game to go in February. To me that tells me not only has he been given the green light from Nate, but he has the confidence that he can make those shots.
What excites me, and it should any Blazer fan, is how Outlaw has increased his production. It is not like James Jones, who is having an amazing year percentage wise, he is making the same percentage on shots, (ok just a bit more 44% compared to 43% last year) he is just taking more of them. He is also getting to the FT line a career high 3.9 times a game, while making 72% of his attempts, which shows he has not been relying only on his jumper, but he is driving to the basket and getting fouled. Here is an interesting fact, most Blazer fans will say that Jarrett Jack drives the ball and gets to the line better than anyone on the team except for Brandon Roy. However that is not true, Outlaw actually attempts .9 more free throws than Jack while playing .7 less minutes a game. I believe this is the Travis Outlaw we will see throughout his career, which is very exciting. He has made the most progress of any Blazer in my opinion.
Travis's PER this year is a career high 17.00, (up from 15.26 last year).
One of my favorite players, I just love big defensive centers, and Joel has been that for this team for the past 4 years. (This would also be why I love Oden so much and can't wait till next year when we will have 2!) I think I can say that Joel is BACK, his rebounding is back up to his before groin shot days, which is the main reason for him being on this team. His blocks are down to 1.2 this year, which is his lowest total since his rookie year, but I think that is because he is trying to take so many charges. I know that I would like to see a few more block attempts out of our starting center, than charge attempts, but either way if he gets the call it is a plus for this team. His FG% is also back up to a respectable 56%, and of course you can't talk about Joel improvement without talking about his free throw percentage which sits at 65%, by far the best of his career.
Joel's improvement this year over last year, is basically health, and a new free throw form. He is having a career year as far as rebounding rate is concerned, (a very healthy 20.0, good for 6th in the league) He has cut his turnovers per minute down, even though they are up per game over last year, (he is playing 5 more minutes per game), which was a big bug-a-boo for him last year, however he still needs to work on catching the ball with his hands, as that would help him tremendously in this department. As it stands he is still the 4th most turnover prone dude in the league. I hope Joel continues to see more time on the floor as the season comes to a close, we need his rebounding, (13.6p/40 highest of his career) desperately, which Nate seems to have figured out as well, (Joel is averaging a season high 24.9 mpg in February). Over all I think we all know what to expect from Joel, he has improved in terms of FT percentage, and he has come back well from a bad season a year ago.
Joel's PER this year is 12.21, (up from 7.43 last year).
Sergio, oh Sergio where have you gone? If there was a player that excited fans last year more than Brandon Roy it was Sergio. He was arguably the 2nd best rookie on the team, he just needed more burn! He shot 42%, 28% on 3pts, 80% at the line, scored 3.7pts and dished out 3.3 assists all in just 13 mpg! This year he was suppose to take over as the full time back up point guard, and flourish! But sad to say, it just has not been Sergio's year. He is average only 9.3 mpg, shooting only 35% over all and 27% from 3pt land. His free throw percentage has taken a nose dive to 68%, all while those flashes of greatness we saw last year have all but disappeared this year.
When looking at his per 40 minute stats I can see that his points are about the same, his rebounding is slightly down, and his assists p/40 are way down, by 2.7 per game! Sergio's goals this year should have been to develop a consistent shooting stroke, cut down on some of the silly turnovers, and learn the run the offense instead of just the free lance offense he was so effective at last year. However none of those things have happened. The Blazers didn't help him out when they signed Steve Blake, but he needs to take that challenge and embrace it. Instead he seems to have back tracked and regressed. His turnover rate is even higher than last year, sitting at 14.6 good for 2nd to last in the league, unless we list Jarrett as a PG, then Sergio would be 3rd. This in a nut shell explains why the Blazers are having a tough time with both of them on the court at the same time. Over all this can be a learning year for Sergio, if he can come back next year, with an improved shot, which will open up lanes for him to drive and dish, we will once again see Spanish Chocolate.
Sergio's PER this year is 9.22, (down from 14.17 last year).
Martell is averaging career highs in points per game, assists, rebounds, 3pt% FG% and minutes played. So has he improved? The answer is, yes, somewhat. Maybe we all want too much out of Martell because he was chosen 6th over all in the draft, but he just seems to be falling short of expectations once again this year, even with all of the career high numbers. Lets look at those numbers, Martell is shooting 41% on FG's and 37% on 3pts, if those are career highs, then you know the first part of your career was nothing to write home about. Martell has made a big improvement on his assist ratio, up to 10.1 from 7.7 last year, but his assist p/40 are still pretty low at 1.7. His p/40 are slightly higher, (14.5 compared to 13.1 last year) and his true shooting percentage is 53.2, which is not bad, but as someone who is in this league because of his shot, he needs to do better. Case in point, James Jones true shooting percentage 66%, Daniel Gibson, 62%, Kevin Martin 59%, Mike Miller 63%, Peja 60%, and Jason Kapono at 58%. These are all players who are in the NBA because they can shoot the ball. If that is going to be Webster's calling card, he needs to improve it. And for him that starts with confidence, after the first month of this season, where Martell averaged 11.6 ppg, he has only had 5 games where he has shot the ball at least 10 times and had a FG% less than 40%. I don't know if the coaches are telling him to not shoot when he is not hitting at a great clip or if he just loses confidence in his shot that quickly, but it has got to change. The Blazers need him to average 10 shots a game, unless he turns into a great defender he will always be on the court for his offense, and the team can not put him out there if he is afraid to shoot because he is having an off night.
I think Martell is either going to turn the corner next year, or he just might get traded, if Rudy comes over and impresses. Only Jack has more to lose if Rudy performs in the NBA like he is performing in the ACB. So did Martell improve his game? Well the per game numbers sure say he did, although not by a lot, it is an improvement. And I think it buys him another year with the team to prove he can be that shooter for the Blazers.
Martell's PER this year is 11.77, the highest of his career, (up from last years 10.02).
So tell me what you think? Have the players improved over last year in your view?