ESPN's Zach Lowe roasted the Portland Trail Blazers like a Thanksgiving turkey in a column published Wednesday morning. He did not hesitate to tear the Blazers apart for their early season weaknesses from poor defensive communication to an inability to fit Evan Turner into the offense.
Lowe’s assessment of the team’s defense (original article includes video):
In that sense, it's almost encouraging how cartoonishly bad the Blazers have been at almost every aspect of defense. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit to pluck. They are a confused train wreck in transition, even when everyone gets back; guys just run to the wrong spots and leave someone wide open.... Opponents are straight toasting the Blazers one-on-one, and feasting on botched rotations that follow. Miscommunication is rampant. Well-meaning help-and-recover missions have ended in catastrophe. The Blazers should be above this nonsense. It carries the whiff of a team that thought it might be good enough to coast in some games.
In addition to the team’s defense, Turner unsurprisingly endures some critique. Lowe points out that Turner has fit awkwardly with CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, and that the Blazers have had to revamp the offense to utilize the former Celtic.
He needs the ball to do his thing, and he has been a predictably awkward fit alongside two stars -- McCollum and Lillard -- who will always have it more than he does. When Lillard and McCollum run the show, Turner can be a liability -- a stationary non-shooter that defenses ignore to smother the lane.
The Blazers are not oblivious to these concerns. Lillard and Meyers Leonard acknowledge Portland’s struggles to Lowe in the opening anecdote of the column:
At halftime in Brooklyn on Sunday, after the Blazers' league-worst defense coughed up another 64 points to the lowly Nets, Meyers Leonard approached Damian Lillard with a plea: "Maybe it's time for you to talk one-on-one with some guys about their defense," Leonard told Portland's franchise player. "Everyone respects what you say."
Lillard considered it, but decided to stay quiet. "The defensive issues -- I'm a part of it," Lillard told ESPN.com the next day. (Leonard would admit he is, too.) "I didn't want to go telling people, 'You need to do this or that.' Enough talking has been done."
Lowe offers up a few centers who the Blazers might target in trade to address their deficiencies:
Portland has long been my favorite Vucevic landing spot, though the Magic should probably just stop taking Olshey's calls after gifting him Harkless for nothing. Just about everyone is overstocked with centers. Portland might call Denver about Jusuf Nurkic, and it wouldn't stun me if they expressed some interest in Tyson Chandler -- even though Chandler is a decade older than some core Blazers, with two years left on a bloated contract.
He closes the article with an candid assessment of the team’s hopes for the season:
This was never going to be a 50-plus win powerhouse. The realistic scenario was to hang in the mid-to-high 40s, grow through continuity, and land on some development that would catapult them up in two or three years
UPDATE: Lowe has reached out to Blazer’s Edge to emphasize that the Blazers are aware of their issues and that he believes the team will “stabilize.”