Lots of talk about the new team, new coach, new possibilities lately. Here's all I care about. Will the Blazer offense finally look entertaining? Running? Passing? After half a decade of slow isos I just want to have fun again!
Ask and ye shall receive. Your wish is going to be granted. But it's not just a matter of a new coach and new philosophy. Personnel has everything to do with how Portland's offense will be shaped this year.
For the first time in forever--well, since 2006 anyway--the Blazers have no bona fide second scorer on the roster. After a brief run of Brandon Roy and Zach Randolph, Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge took the stage. That held steady until last season when the Blazers threw a package of noodles at the wall hoping someone would stick as that second guy. Raymond Felton was out of shape. His role didn't accentuate his strengths either. But he was a proven offensive player in this league and defenses had to honor him. Plus he knew what he was doing in a pinch. That goes doubly for Jamal Crawford. Though he turned out disappointing on average, he could light it up at any given moment. Defenses respected that too. His reputation alone mandated it, if not his nightly performances.
Many will argue that Damian Lillard will fill the role of second scorer. If you take a long-term perspective I agree. But a rookie point guard is going to fluctuate. Lillard won't sneak up on anyone this season. His defenders are going to welcome him to the league cruelly. He'll get past that, but you can't write the check until he's put some funds in the bank.
The lack of a second proven halfcourt scorer will reduce the efficiency of isolation plays for Aldridge in the long run. The Blazers cannot walk up the court, dump it in to their big fella, and hope to succeed. Even if Aldridge had a career year they'd never milk enough points out of those sets to win.
Without that guy--without any proven ability to attack the rim in the halfcourt--the Blazers will be forced to beat defenses through motion. The first option is to get the ball up the court before the defense can set. This is where guys like Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and Meyers Leonard are going to shine. When the defense does get back the Blazers will need to defeat them with the pass. Outside of Aldridge Portland's greatest (and maybe only true) offensive strength is the distance jumper. The Blazers will be deadly from the arc and the deeper portions of mid-range. But they cannot hope to dribble into those shots. Any player who holds the ball and tries to launch a deep shot against a defender will be dead in the water. Ball movement, particularly inside-out, will be essential to their offensive success.
Whether this approach is better remains open to debate. They have to execute it in order to look good, naturally. With new faces at point guard, a generally inexperienced backcourt, and three primary scorers who lack the dribbling ability to bail them out of jams the Blazers will face an uphill battle just getting coordinated. Even if they do develop consistency it's hard to imagine this kind of offense reaching the efficiency levels of the Roy-Aldridge scheme in its prime. More entertaining, however? Yeah. You're going to get that in spades...at least on nights when the game plan works. When defenses stall the Blazers they're going to look awful. You'll be tempted to switch off plenty of games in the third quarter this year, not because the team isn't trying but because their offense will be feast or famine. But when that feast is served you'll see plenty of passes, dashes for the bucket, and three-point attempts. Just run your video game controller behind the TV set, mash some random buttons while they play, and enjoy.