It's time once again for our weekly look at the fortunes of the Trail Blazers players.
Stats are reflected from Monday, February 2nd through Sunday, February 8th
Last Week: 21-34 (61.7%) shooting, 5-10 free throws, 29 rebounds, 7 blocks, 8 turnovers
Stock Watch: UP
Oh how the Blazers missed their mascot-mauling center. The energy change was almost visible to the naked eye when Lopez returned versus Utah on Tuesday. Teams were forced to keep track of him on pick-and-rolls, something they have not had to do in recent weeks. Lopez shored up the Blazers' weakness on the defensive glass almost immediately. The team greatly benefited from Lopez's knowledge of when and how to set effective picks for Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum. Most importantly, the offense flowed naturally as it did when the season began. The Blazers could force teams to spread out and force isolations where their perimeter players are most effective without the threat of opposing teams abandoning the middle. Lopez was not as aggressive chasing rebounds as he was at the beginning of the season as his hand continues to heal, and Portland will only improve as Lopez has more confidence in attacking the glass.
Last Week: 12-24 (50%) shooting, 6-14 threes, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers in 60 minutes
Stock Watch: WAY UP
When McCollum was selected with the 10th pick of the 2013 draft, scouts called him a raw prospect with one stellar skill: the ability to shoot from anywhere in the gym, up to and including the rafters Larry Bird/Michael Jordan commercial style. He has struggled at times to find his shot at the NBA level, but he seemed to put it all together this week with three strong performances. Against Phoenix on Thursday, he combined long range threes with run-stop pull up jumpers to attack the Suns bench, scoring all 12 of his points in a dominating second quarter. When he repeated this attack against Houston on Sunday, the Rockets switched their best on ball defender, Corey Brewer, onto him when he was on the court. Considering Brewer had been tasked with stopping Lillard, it shows that teams are treating McCollum as the threat the Blazers hoped he would be when they picked him in 2013.
Last Week: 20-48 (41.7%) shooting, 10-27 (37.0%) threes, 22 rebounds, 9 steals, 5 turnovers
Stock Watch: NO CHANGE
Matthews and Lillard have both struggled recently from long range. It is the nature of the three pointer that sometimes the shooters will go cold. Wesley has gone with a volume approach to get his shot back, and it has worked, to an extent. The game versus Utah last Monday is an example of it working well. He started off with three misses, before hitting six of his next seven and racking up 21 points in the win. Versus Phoenix and Houston, the plan did not work as well, and Matthews was ineffective at best. The six points he scored versus the Rockets was only the fourth time in his last 23 games that he scored in single digits. While his shooting has been off from the long range artist that the Blazers know, his defense is as good as ever. His four steals versus Dallas helped build the massive lead that Portland would eventually lose, and his pesky defense against Houston were key in holding off the Rockets.
Last Week: 4-11 (36.3%) shooting, 0-0 free throws, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 turnovers in 51 minutes
Stock Watch: DOWN
Kaman seeing a reduction in minutes was going to be a given with the return of Lopez. What was not foreseen was Meyers Leonard taking four steps ahead in his development. Combined with nagging leg and back injuries to Kaman, and the big center from Central Michigan saw a significantly reduced role last week. When he was on the court, Kaman shot just 2-of-7 from within ten feet of the basket despite regularly playing against the opposing bench. Against Dallas, the much smaller Al-Farouq Aminu beat Kaman to defensive rebounds several times. While the Blazers will eventually find balance with Leonard, Kaman and eventually Joel Freeland, Kaman will need to return to form offensively.
Last Week: 10-34 (29.4%) shooting, 4-17 (23.5%) threes, 29 rebounds, 21 assists, 7 turnovers
Stock Watch: DOWN (Slightly)
Batum had an up and down week with the return of his pick-and-roll playmate. He hit 20 points with 7 assists against Phoenix, put up a respectable 10-8-6 line versus Utah, and looked to be returning to form. Then the trip to Texas happened, and Batum vanished again. A combined 2-for-14 shooting trip, including 1-of-9 from three, even if his rebounding numbers stayed consistent. While he was the only Blazer to not commit at least one turnover versus Dallas, his night overall was something to forget. Eventually, he stopped shooting altogether, as he did not take a shot in the fourth quarter or overtime. While Batum is trying to make up for his lack of offense by being effective as a passer and a rebounder, without the ability to score teams are able to ignore him on offense. Multiple times versus the Rockets, Batum was left alone on the outside as Houston dared him to shoot. Batum needs to be able to hit those shots. If his injured wrist will not permit him to hit those shots consistently, one has to ask why is he playing at all?