I have read countless fanposts (and the resultant comments) over the past several weeks. I think there has been a fairly consistent look to the team that people would ideally like to see coming out of the off-season. It seems that adding someone like Tyreke Evans and a fairly skilled center (Gortat for example) would satisfy most of the Blazer faithful on this site. Before marching out with the pitchforks and torches, please don’t waste your breath saying that "I don’t want Gortat", or something like that. He’s an example, and not specifically the point of this post.
Here is my point. I looked at a number of championship teams from the past decade or more and found something that they all have in common. Almost every one of them had one or two defensive specialists/lockdown defenders in their starting lineup. Haslem and Battier for the Heat, MWP and maybe Fisher for the Lakers, Bowen for the Spurs, Horry for the Spurs and Lakers, Rodman for the Bulls are just a few examples. Currently, Memphis has Allen and Prince and OKC has Ibaka and Sefalosha. These are all players that don’t require touches. I don’t believe the Blazers currently have a single player remotely approaching this description.
Now I’ve constructed a chart showing the number of shots and the number of minutes our "big four" players have averaged the last three years. I have also thrown in Evans and Gortat as examples of what things might look like from our top six players.
Player Minutes per game Shots per game
Aldridge 37 17
Lillard 38 16
Batum 32 11
Matthews 34 12
Evans 34 12
Gortat 30 10
Totals 205 80
So you can see that with just six players (if nobody gives up any shots), we are using up 80 shots per game. The problem, of course, is that we still have 35 minutes to account for from an additional 2-4 bench players. Last year the Blazers averaged 82 shots per game. The league average was around 84-85 per game with 89 shots per game being the most in the league. That means that we only would have 2 or 3 additional shots for the other players that would be playing the additional 35 minutes per game (assuming league average). Something has to give here. I don’t believe that we could keep this team happy as currently proposed. Anyone that thinks that these players will happily give up a significant number of shots is probably deluded. Like it or not, that’s often what produces the big paychecks.
So what is the solution? Feel free to choose another center. Dalembert has often been suggested (I don’t consider him a game-changing defensive player, though). For the record, he averaged about 22 minutes and 6 shots per game. Throw him in and you would reduce the number of shots for our "big six". However, you would also reduce the total minutes and would therefore have more minutes to fill without a significant change in the number of shots available. Maybe I’m mistaken, but in order to replicate the successful model that we have often seen in the past, we will probably have to give up one of our big four or pull in different types of replacements than Evans and Gortat in order to be successful going forward. Although not nearly as sexy as some of the other names often mentioned, the Tony Allens or Avery Bradleys or Larry Sanders of the world (or others like them) will be necessary to attain the next level for this team. This type of player doesn’t grow on trees, but are just as important as the Evans or Batums or even the Aldridges of the world.
I’d love to see a different vision of the future than I have generally seen proposed. Any takers?