In the week leading up to the Portland Trail Blazers sealing a playoff berth, and possibly a division title, which players stepped up, and which stepped back? Here's the Stock Watch.
Stats are reflected from Monday, March 23rd to Sunday, March 29th
Last Week: 17-35 (48.5%) shooting, 2-11 threes, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 7 turnovers
Stock Watch: DOWN
It was nice to see Afflalo wake up against his former team last Saturday, scoring 21 on 8-of-11 shooting (though he did not attempt a field goal in the second half). Portland would like to see him put up those numbers more often. The rest of the week he shot just 38.5% from the field, including 1-of-10 from long range. He now averages 10.6 points per game as a Blazer, which would be the lowest per game scoring output of his career as a starter. Before Saturday, the average was 9.4, which is similar to his numbers as a rookie with the Detroit Pistons in 2007. His field goal percentage with Portland is 41.3%, which is decent for a mid-range shooter. It is also the second lowest of his career, trailing his rookie season. Again, if you take away the 8-for-11 night, it drops to 38.9%. Much of this can be attributed to small sample size, but the trends are not in Afflalo's favor. Here is hoping the Denver game was a wake-up call.
Last Week: 33-64 (51.6%) shooting, 11-16 free throws, 29 rebounds, 2 blocks, 6 turnovers
Stock Watch: ASTRONOMICAL
Aldridge's numbers make zero sense. There is no reason a player with a sprained finger and a torn ligament in his thumb should be putting up these stats. Terrifying fact for every other team in the Western Conference: with his shooting nights against Denver and Phoenix, he has had TEN games where he has shot over 50% since he tore the ligament in his thumb. It is not like these have been easy shots either. Against Phoenix, 12 of his 13 makes came from 11 feet away from the basket or further. Against Denver, 9 of his 13 came from that distance. Aldridge's mid-range shot has always been borderline unguardable. Now it is positively lethal. While the hand injuries have taken away Aldridge's three point shot (he is 4-of-15 from three over his last nine games) and made shooting free throws last week difficult, his most dangerous weapons continues to fall at a brutally efficient pace.
Last Week: 9-20 (45%) shooting, 7-16 threes, 13 assists, 3 steals, 5 turnovers in 67 minutes
Stock Watch: UP
Blake went bombs away last week, scoring in double-figures twice with good efficiency from three point range. The entire rest of the season, Blake had scored in double-figures four times. His game last Tuesday versus Golden State was a model of reserve point guard play: 10 points on 2-of-4 shooting, 4-for-4 from the charity stripe, 5 assists, a steal and a strong night in a hard fought game, especially with Blake paired up with either Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry. If Blake is knocking down open shots, it will cause the bench offense to ramp up dynamically.
Last Week: 14-37 (37.8%) shooting, 6-17 threes, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks, 0 turnovers in 88 minutes
Stock Watch: UP
When Aldridge missed a game last week, the reserve power forward revolving door shifted again, this time landing on Wright. People forget that Wright averaged 16 points per game just a couple years ago with Golden State, so no one should have been surprised to see him plant 12 on the Warriors and 15 on the Utah Jazz. Asking him to be a strong rebounder at the power forward spot at 6'9 is an arduous task, but Wright has shown great strength inside to fight for rebounds his height would normally not permit him to grab.
Last Week: 18-36 (50%) shooting, 5-10 threes, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 turnovers in 77 minutes
Stock Watch: UP
For Blazers fans, I am not sure what was more surprising: McCollum lighting up Golden State for a career-high 23 points, or that he scored 19 of those before garbage time. He started out rough, missing his first three shots, but went entirely ballistic in the second and third quarters, shooting 6-of-9. His strong play was part of the reason Portland led at halftime, and he was one of the few Portland shooters that did not go ice cold in the third quarter. I have always advocated McCollum's ability to shoot from virtually anywhere in the Moda Center, and the distinct possibility he could hit shots from the upper ring, but seeing him put it together with quick drives to the hoop and step-back midrange shots is a joy to watch.