Is it the All-Star break yet? Could use a little time to catch our breath here, maybe lick our wounds a bit, you know?
It’s still 4 weeks and a dozen games away? Guuuhhh.
OK, we all knew the Blazers were unlikely to repeat the remarkable health they enjoyed last year, with LaMarcus Aldridge being the only starter not to play in all 82 games. What we didn’t quite expect was the injury bug to show up along with so many uninvited friends and then camp out on the lawn for an extended stay. This is what happens when your food is too good, Portland. Folks don’t want to leave.
This is kind of a pivotal moment. The upcoming stretch could well determine whether the Blazers get home court advantage for the playoffs...or not.
You can catch up on the latest injury news in my FanPost here. In the meantime, this is our chance to shut Bill Simmons up (probably won't be the last time, but...). Monday on the Grantland Basketball Hour, he and Jalen Rose agreed by the 6th minute of the show that the Blazers were not contenders because they have no depth.
This is the ultimate test to date of the depth that the Blazers have built and developed – SOMEbody’s gonna have to step up and play some significant minutes.
So this week’s poll question is – who do you turn to on the bench? Who do you trust --- or at least believe in? Who should clearly get an uptick in minutes?
We’ll skip over Blake and Kaman, who we see every night anyway, and probably shouldn’t play any more than they do now. So without further ado, let’s meet our contestants on the soon-to-be-hit reality show ‘Get Some’:
Dorell Wright – The veteran filled in for LMA when he was out last year, putting up a respectable 9.2 pts, 5.1 reb, along with 36.8% from deep in 21 minutes a game. He has played pretty well when he’s gotten his chances this year, shooting 39.5% from distance. His signature performance was the triple overtime game in San Antonio, when he played 33 minutes after DNPs in 17 of the first 26 games. He answered the bell by shooting 4 of 5 from distance, grabbing 8 boards, and playing great defense. A known commodity, D-Wright has the versatility to both guard the post and harry outside shooters.
Meyers Leonard – Suddenly, the future may be now. The once-much-maligned Meyers has an eFG% of .622(!) on the season. That’s what Kevin Durant is doing this year. He has played significant minutes since the night of his legendary four-point play against the Lakers – check out these stats from the last 8 games:
|Minutes Played||PPG||REB||FG%||3 Pt %|
Former haters can address their apologies to 1 North Center Court Street, Portland, OR, 97227.
Thomas Robinson – "Tank" has only played more than 14 minutes in a game 5 times this season – with 3 of them being extremely memorable. There was the dominant 15 point, 16 rebound game against Milwaukee; His personal Dunk Contest hosted by the Pelicans; and Monday night, which might be most impressive of all. Tying a career high with 3 steals, he played awesome post defense, drew a key charge like a savvy veteran, had a key momentum-changing offensive rebound and putback, played 10 minutes in a hotly contested 4th quarter – and did it all under control, with only one cringe-worthy play the whole evening. This might be a peek behind the curtain.
C.J. McCollum – 3J may be the one guy we NEED to show up this year. Some consistent playing time might help: even aside from his finger injury earlier this year, he has been jerked in and out of the lineup. He has only played more than 20 minutes in 4 games this year, and his shooting numbers in those games have been eye-popping:
|Minutes Played||PPG||FG %||3pt %|
This may be a case of Stotts playing the hot hand – although CJ only got 11 combined minutes over the last 2 games after his 17 point outburst against the Spurs. Maybe the trade we need to make is CJ’s warmup pants for some time for him on the court.
Allen Crabbe – "Cool Breeze" is a bit banged up himself at the moment, having sat 4 of the last 5 games as he recovers from a knee strain. With only 103 NBA minutes of experience when he was tabbed the surprise starter in placed of Batum on November 11, Crabbe went on to log at least 8 minutes in 22 consecutive appearances, on his way to having double digit minutes 25 times so far this year. Clearly, he has the coaching staff’s trust. He fits in so seamlessly to Stotts’ systems you hardly know he’s there - except when he gets loose on a runout or pops a three, which he’s been hitting at a 39.3% clip. Also plays within himself nicely on D.
Will Barton – Will has not gotten much chance to thrill this year, with only 9 appearances in the last 25 games. Monday’s game was a reminder of what he can contribute, with impressive drives to the hoop, disruptive D, and excellent end-to-end speed – earning him the right to play all twelve minutes of the 4th quarter comeback. A good candidate for minutes if the Blazers go up-tempo.
Victor Claver: Would BlazerNation lose it’s collective mind if Clav-air got the start against the Suns? Ushering in the ‘Vicsanity’ era? Nuttier things have happened. Claver is a heady player (he reminded us on Monday with an awesome hustle play to win a loose ball) who is always in the right spot and is actually hitting some threes in his limited opportunities (3-6, 50%).
Tell us who is most deserving of an increased role – whether because they’re the best fit for the system, or because they can be a needed ‘change-up’; whether due to recent performance or potential, or perhaps to build trade value…let us know below!
You can view the current poll results before you vote, if you want to put your weight behind a candidate for second- or third-place consideration.