clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Roundtable: Which Bench Player Needs to Step Up?

A panel of Blazer's Edge writers discusses which bench player needs to step up this year in order for the team to succeed.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

It's been well documented throughout the summer on Blazer's Edge that the Portland Trail Blazers could use some work. However, with limited resources this summer, GM Neil Olshey had to rely on every bench player getting better. A panel of writers discusses which player's improvement will be the most important for the team.


Sam Tongue@SamTongue

This is a question we've been asking around Blazer's Edge since the roster was mostly set during the summer. The reality is, even with as good as the starting unit is, a bench group that is less-than-average (like they've been the last two years) likely means much of the same for the Trail Blazers, if not maybe even worse.

That said, I'm keeping my eyes on the backcourt, and specifically Steve Blake. Blake has been tasked with leading the second unit, which could mean a few different things: be the ball-dominant point guard with Wesley Matthews or Damian Lillard off-ball, share it with another guard like Lillard, or play completely off the ball. This combination of roles won't be easy, but definitely will be critical to the Blazers' success.

Two honorable mentions: the first is CJ McCollum, who suffered through an injury-riddled start to last year and never quite got any momentum. He could fill a role similar to Blake and/or spell Lillard a few extra minutes of rest. The other is Chris Kaman. If Kaman can fit seamlessly in with both LaMarcus Aldridge and likely Thomas Robinson, Portland's front line depth could prove vital against a difficult West.


Evans Clinchy@evansclinchy

The Blazers have been criticized a fair amount over the years for lacking depth in their bench. This flak is justified in a way, but it's also important to remember -- of all the teams in today's NBA, the Blazers may well be the one that needs depth the least. Their starting five is so strong, so balanced, and has such continuity together that you can sort of justify the bench being an afterthought.

I think there's one exception to this, and it involves Robin Lopez. I occasionally wish the Blazers had another reliable big they could sub in for Lopez and get a little extra offensive firepower. Lopez is very solid on D, one of the best big men in the game, but an offense/defense platoon would help give the Blazers a little extra flexibility.

Enter... Meyers Leonard?

I harp on Leonard a lot because he was a No. 11 overall pick two years ago and so far, he's failed to deliver the kind of production that draft slot would lead you to expect. He's played the fewest minutes of anyone in that 2012 draft lottery (Thomas Robinson's played the third fewest, by the way), and when Leonard does take the floor, he's been underwhelming. His career PER is 11.5.

I think he has potential, though. Leonard can score around the rim a little bit, and he's shown (extremely small sample size alert) an ability to step outside and hit mid-range jumpers as well. If he's healthy, gets some minutes, and gives a consistent effort, he could give the Blazers an extra big man with some offensive potency. The Blazers are a team that has everything, pretty much, but a little scoring from the center spot would be a much-appreciated bonus.


Ryan A. Chase

Well, the easy answer is Meyers Leonard, considering the use of the 1st-round draft pick and his lack of progress to this point.

The problem with that is the Blazers already planned for this contingency by bringing in Chris Kaman. Worst case, Meyers is either a fourth-string center or a fourth-string power forward.

Therefore, the player that needs to step into high gear for the Blazers is Dorell Wright. Small forward has the least amount of depth right now, barring James Southerland taking a huge step forward or Will Barton playing as an undersized three.

Wright has shown in the past with Golden State that he is a capable scorer if given valuable minutes, but his production last season in relief of Nicolas Batum was lacking. Given Batum's injury history, Wright needs to show that he can step in and contribute eight a night, and occasionally cut loose for more. Resting Batum will only help the Blazers in the long haul, and Wright needs to be able to let the Blazers do that.


Sagar Trika@BlazersBySagar

When I first thought about how to answer this, two names popped in my head: Dorell Wright and Meyers Leonard.

Most people that have read some of my previous pieces or roundtable responses will know that I'm very critical of Meyers Leonard, and I think people within the franchise are too. I think the possibility that Leonard doesn't make a major jump this season is what prompted the team to sign Chris Kaman this summer.

The team, however, made no moves to improve the small forward position, which, based on the depth chart below, is the weakest position for the team.

Portland Trail Blazers Depth Chart

Wright was brought in as a guy who could knock down an open three and force defenders to respect his shooting ability. He also has the experience, entering his 11th season in the NBA, and championship pedigree (he won with the Miami Heat in 2006). His career high in scoring came with the Golden State Warriors in 2011, when he averaged 16.4 points per game. Of course, he won't be playing 35+ minutes per game like he did last season.

My point is that coach Terry Stotts needs to be able to spare Nicolas Batum some rest on the bench, especially given his busy summer with the French national team at the FIBA World Cup. In order for Stotts to do so, Wright needs to step up and prove he can be the guy Stotts can lean on.


Which bench player do you think needs to step up the most for the Blazers? Vote in the poll and weigh in below.