Time for a look at how your favorite Trail Blazers fared during the past week. First we'll take a general look at five movers and shakers then run down the list of bench players.
Last Week: 19-39 (48.7%) shooting, 9-21 (42.8%) threes, 15 rebounds, 7 steals, 1 turnover
Whatever was afflicting Damian Lillard earlier in the year that caused his shots to not go into the basket in the first half of games seems to have spread to Wesley temporarily. He missed every three he took until the fourth quarter Wednesday versus San Antonio, and missed every shot he took in the first half period versus Oklahoma City on Friday. While he recovered nicely against the Spurs to hang a 31 on them, his overall 2-of-13 shooting night against the Thunder nearly cost Portland the game. The week before, he hit just one of nine threes, and one cannot help but wonder if the three-point contest affected Wesley's shot in the same way some baseball players believe the Home Run Contest affects their swing.
Last Week: 9-20 (45%) shooting, 5-14 (35.7%) threes, 12 rebounds, 17 assists, 9 turnovers
For three games in a row, the scoring Nicolas Batum returned to the Portland lineup. The 41 points he scored from February 22nd to February 27th were the second most he has scored in a three game stretch this season. He had an even better stretch at the end of December. While his scoring fell off near the end of last week, his defense improved even further. He single-handedly kept Rudy Gay in check versus Sacramento on Sunday, and provided strong transition defense versus Oklahoma City. If there is a reason to be concerned, it is the high volume of turnovers. He tied a season-high with five versus San Antonio, and added three more versus the Thunder. As the primary offensive facilitator, those numbers have to come down.
Last Week: 10-18 (55.6%) shooting, 5-9 threes, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 7 turnovers in 83 minutes
In two of the biggest games of the post All-Star break schedule, Afflalo showed exactly why Portland traded for him. The 18 points he put up against the Spurs were the most of any bench player this season for Portland, surpassing the 17 scored by CJ McCollum twice this season. How Afflalo has been scoring has been just as important as the scoring itself. He has great lateral quickness, and has been able to get his own shot from midrange, going away from the usual Portland offense of "LaMarcus post-up or three point shot". He is exactly what Portland needs off the bench, and will give a weapon in the postseason that the Blazers desperately crave.
Last Week: 4-8 shooting, 3-4 threes, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 7 fouls in 25 minutes
Versus the Kings on Sunday, Meyers found himself taken out of the game for an odd reason that nonetheless heavily plays into NBA games: he was too nice. Reggie Evans was more angry and aggressive, and managed to scare Meyers away from rebounds. Evans is an instigator, doing small things to get opposing centers unfocused, and Leonard was not prepared for those kind of NBA mind games. Evans tried to pull the same stunt with Robin Lopez, only to have Lopez shove him to the floor.
Leonard's defense is improving, but he is drawing too many fouls and seems reluctant to take the threes that have been serving him well thus far. Another bump in his development, but this has been an incredibly promising season for him.
Last Week: 1-2 shooting, 1-1 threes, 1 steal, 1 foul, 1 turnover in 7 minutes
Gee played meaningful minutes for the first time Sunday versus the Kings, and proceeded to score more than his fellow trade traveler Afflalo. Gee occupies a similar area of play on the Blazers bench as Dorell Wright, as they are both solid rebounding, decent three-point shooting small forwards. Wright is bigger than Gee though, which could be a deciding factor. Either way, Gee will have to make the most of his opportunities off of the bench.
And here are the new bench power rankings for the week of February 23rd. As always, the ranking are determined by a combination of player performance, minutes played, and contributions to the team.
1) Chris Kaman Last Week: 1
2) Arron Afflalo Last Week: 4
3) Steve Blake Last Week: 3
4) Meyers Leonard Last Week: 2
5) CJ McCollum Last Week: 5
6) Joel Freeland Last Week: Not Ranked
7) Dorell Wright Last Week: 6
8) Alonzo Gee Last Week: Not Ranked
9) Allen Crabbe Last Week: 7