We are at the time of the year where pundits toss out their bold predictions for the upcoming NBA season. Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk predicted that, due to roster turnover, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard will lead the NBA in field goal attempts.
"There's no one else on that team that's going to be taking many shots," Helin stated, "It's going to be the Damian Lillard show night in and night out."
While Helin correctly points out that Lillard was fourth in the NBA in shots taken with last year's team, the idea that the entire roster is going to pass it to Lillard and get out of the way is a bit of a reach. Lillard has previously stated that he is "not going to be the hero." Portland has other burgeoning options.
Over the final month last season, Meyers Leonard averaged 7.5 shots per night, including one game where he only took one shot when he was in foul trouble. Take that away, and he averaged 8.7 per game. In this preseason, Leonard is averaging eight per contest. As his usage goes up, he will begin to help fill the shooting void.
In a similar vein, Al-Farouq Aminu is averaging 11 shots per contest this preseason. He was signed as a free agent this summer with the understanding that he was not a strong shooter, but that player development personnel would work closely with him to change that.
C.J. McCollum, after averaging 12 field goal attempts per contest during the final month of last season, and 13.5 per game in the playoffs, is averaging 15.7 shots per game this preseason. He too will be expected to shoulder some of the scoring burden, and he is already a strong shooter.
A cursory scan of the Trail Blazers roster might indicate Lillard is the only shooter, but the statistics show that is not the case. Lillard will likely be the most prolific scorer on the team, but others will step in as needed. This year is largely formative for this young team, so it may take a while for some players to find their groove. Yet, there will certainly be team basketball.