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Portland Trail Blazers Stock Watch: New and Improved!

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Which players moved up and which players moved down in the new and improved Stock Watch?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As most of you know, this is my first year with BlazersEdge.  I created the Stock Watch to be able to give a week-to-week analysis of the players who made themselves newsworthy, for better or for worse.  However, many of the readers here were frustrated in the lack of a system.  Saying a player went "WAY UP" or "WAY DOWN" or "NO CHANGE" means little when you do not have anything to compare it to.  So I have implemented some changes to hopefully present the column in a more statistical manner.

From now on, the list of players will always be the bench players.  The starters are cemented in spots one through five, and it does not make a lot of sense to shuffle them around.  This way when a player moves up or down, the reader is given perspective on how that player is doing in relation to the other players that come off the bench.  Players that move up and down will be given an explanation on how and why they moved, though starters will get a piece if they had a noteworthy performance in the week.

Stock Watch: Second Half Week 1

1. Chris Kaman

Last Week: NR

With the shuffling of the substitutes throughout Portland's injury woes, Kaman is the most consistent player off the pine. While the others on the bench (save for Steve Blake) may see a rise or a fall in their playing time, Kaman sees the court every single night, and has for the entire season. His scoring touch on the second unit helps alleviate the biggest problem for the Blazers second unit, while his weaknesses are less pronounced against second team players.

You would be hard pressed to describe his game against Memphis on Sunday as "pretty". A turnover in the second quarter where he simply failed to transfer the ball from his right hand to his left stands out, as does his 2-of-7 shooting night. Yet he still averages a solid 8.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game off the bench. If he can return to his early season productivity, the Blazers will be in great shape.

2. Meyers Leonard

Last Week: NR

Leonard has become a three point force for the Blazers at a time where the usual long range shooters in Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard have cooled off. Memphis dared him to shoot on Sunday, and Leonard obliged them with three 3s and 11 total points starting for the injured LaMarcus Aldridge. By halftime, Leonard had more 3s by himself than the rest of the team did put together. When he is on the court, opposing centers will be forced to follow him out to the perimeter or Leonard will simply continue to get open looks. Considering that Leonard is presently shooting 43.5% from three, it is hard to imagine teams will simply let Leonard shoot open 3s. This will stop teams from clogging the middle, allowing more room to operate for Lillard/Aldridge/Robin Lopez/Aaron Afflalo.

That said, Marc Gasol exposed a weakness in Leonard's play: his aggressiveness. Leonard is an average defender who makes up for his lack of explosiveness with fierce shot denial techniques. Gasol used that to lure Leonard into foul trouble. Leonard's eight points in the first quarter did him little good when he picked up his second foul halfway through the quarter. Gasol repeated the trick in the third quarter, forcing two more fouls and letting Leonard sit on the bench for much of the remainder of the game. Leonard could learn from Kaman and Lopez on how to deny opposing shots while not fouling.

3. Steve Blake

Last Week: NR

There was a great deal of talk of how Blake's minutes would be impacted with the arrival of Afflalo. Blake has struggled to score this season, and the Blazers bench is 28th in the NBA in scoring. Versus Memphis, Blake decided to alter that narrative somewhat. He hit three straight 3s in the third quarter, hit a fourth in the fourth quarter before the Portland wagon collapsed, caught fire, and exploded, and ended up leading the bench with 13 points.

Blake is a pass-first point guard, Portland knew this when it acquired him the first time, the second time, and knew this when he returned to the Rose City this time. He is an above-average offensive facilitator, but the rate to which teams have simply abandoned Blake on the three-point line and dared him to shoot is worrying. If Blake can keep knocking those shots down, he will definitely have a place in the bench rotation.

4. Aaron Afflalo

Last Week: NR

The big prize from the trade with Denver which sent Thomas Robinson, Will Barton and Victor Claver packing debuted Sunday night, hitting his first shot off a jumper over Courtney Lee. He finished the night with eight points, four rebounds, and a solid presence on the defensive side of the ball.

The big takeaway from his debut was his speed. Other than Lillard, Portland has lacked the player that can drive and shred an interior defense when they play safe defending the outside shot. Afflalo's lateral quickness was on display in the first quarter, forcing Memphis to put Tony Allen, their best on-ball defender, on Afflalo to stop him from harassing the Grizzlies defense. The best part for Portland is that Afflalo had not fully learned the offense. Imagine what he will do once he has a firm grasp of the offense and what his teammates can do.

5. CJ McCollum

Last Week: NR

McCollum had been on a tear recently until he figuratively slammed into a brick wall in Utah. He had been averaging ten points per game over his last three games before the trip to face the Jazz. Yet it was McCollum's minutes that got fed to Afflalo, and CJ did not get off the bench versus Memphis. Considering McCollum is still developing and Blake is a veteran in the twilight of his career, it is hard to imagine that McCollum will not get any playing time at all that often.

6. Dorell Wright

Last Week: NR

Wright came to play with a vengeance against Memphis on Sunday, scoring nine points and snaring five rebounds as he found himself at the power forward position with Leonard in foul trouble. It stands to reason that Wright will see an increased work load with Barton gone and Portland needing relief at small forward unless the Blazers decide to use a three guard set.

7. Allen Crabbe

Last Week: NR

Crabbe has not seen the court outside of garbage time since February 3rd, and has not played meaningful minutes since January 8th.

Not Placed: Alonzo Gee, Joel Freeland