We have all discussed, in exhaustive detail, the state of nearly every individual Blazer as well as various lineups and rotations. I found myself in the bliss of a five game Blazers winning streak wondering, "Is this who we are, or are we even better than this?" Then, it occurred to me, given the opposition, we may actually be worse than this. So I decided to do a little research project to see if the evidence suggested the glass is half full or half empty. I hope it sparks some discussion.
Let's start by looking at each rotation player's performance thus far as compared to both their career averages and the averages of their previous season.
I color coded all areas that were worse compared to the previous season RED, all areas better GREEN, and debatable differences (e.g., taken more or less shots) YELLOW. If the differences were negligible, I left them alone.
Note that I'm old school and did not include things like PER, and the stats that make it up. If you'd like to add them to the spreadsheet, please feel free to do so using this link:
GLASS HALF-FULL ANALYSIS
The Blazers are off to their best start in years, and are winners of five straight despite having reduced scoring from every player on their team outside of Greg Oden and Jerryd Bayless. Everyone's FG% is down except for those two, Rudy and LMA. Everyone's 3P% is down except for Rudy, Jerryd and Travis. Rebounding is down except for Greg and LMA. Players like Andre Miller are way off their career averages in many categories, including a staggering 38.9% FG% compared to a career 45.9% clip, and a full two assists below his career average. Brandon is down in almost every meaningful statistic except for free throw attempts. Basically, the argument here would be that winning at this rate and sitting in a first-place tie with so many players playing below their potential means we are due for even better quality of play down the road.
Brandon is good enough that he'll eventually figure it out. Greg will continue to improve. LMA is a notoriously slow starter, especially scoring. Andre Miller is a slow starter as well.
GLASS HALF-EMPTY ANALYSIS
It should be pretty obvious that the opposing view would be that this win streak is fool's gold built on poor opposition, and there is ample evidence of this team seems to be making each other worse, not better. The amount of down numbers far outweighs the up, and not all of that can be explained by the reduced minutes everyone besides Greg is playing. Shooting percentages are down. Assists are down. You could argue this team has yet to figure out how to make 1+1=3, so to speak from a chemistry perspective.
I'm a centrist. I'll take a little from column A and a little from column B. Mostly, I think shooting returns to mean over time. Andre Miller will not continue to shoot so far below his career numbers. Neither will Travis Outlaw or Joel. When the team starts shooting well, it may be one of the most efficient and versatile offensive forces in the NBA. I'm not even talking about great shooting, just doing what folks have proven they can do throughout their careers. A couple little tidbits stood out to me that don't mean anything to the larger team:
- Jerry is shooting 100% from 3pt range
- I was shocked that Rudy's FG% is higher so far this year
- I was shocked that Outlaw's 3P% is higher so far this year
- Martell's defense and hustle really showed up with increased blocks and steals with fewer fouls
What stood out to you? Are you a half-full or half-empty person on this?h