It’s been a rough few months in Rip City as the boys in red and black have come out with inconsistent effort and even less consistent results. Concerns for regression weren’t unfounded but no one expected Portland be out of playoff position as they opened presents on Christmas morning.
If anyone could use some holiday cheer it’s the Blazers. Things (namely the standings) don’t look good now but ‘tis the season for hope. Here’s eight holiday wishes that could help them turn it around.
Aggressive Defensive Positioning
Players and coaches have emphasized defensive improvement since the start of training camp yet the team has sunk to the very bottom of the barrel. This discrepancy between words and actions has confounded writers and fans alike. I still think the Blazers can get back to where they were last year but that was never the goal.
Scheme adjustments shouldn’t be made out of panic but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Stotts should start experimenting. The guards and perimeter defenders up and down the roster have wilted for the most part. Why not try and take a little of that pressure off the by testing the big men? By bringing the bigs out towards the perimeter on defense, they can play a much more active role in defending the perimeter and preventing players from getting into the paint. Of course, this could backfire with even more stupid fouls and blow-bys, but could it really get much worse?
(note: Stotts experimented with this against the Toronto Raptors on Monday with encouraging results)
A More Restful Schedule
Before the season started, everyone looked at the December schedule and said “Holy schnikes!” No one ever uses the schedule as an excuse but you gotta wonder how much those long road trips took a toll. There can be no excusing the first third of this season but it would be nice if the schedule were a bigger factor than anyone has been willing to admit. If that’s the case, then we can hope for some better effort as the travel eases up a bit in the new year.
An Injury-Free Finish
Portland was exceptionally healthy last year while the rest of the Western Conference seemed to crumble around them.
And wasn’t that more fun?
In keeping with the spirit of the season, we won’t wish to smite our enemies but a request for no more injuries seems warranted.
A Rejuvenated Ed Davis
And while we’re petitioning the basketball gods, what the heck is going on with Ed Davis? Can we get a little holiday rest and relaxation to turn this guy around? He went from a rim-rocking, blue-collar workhorse who knew what he was good at to a guy struggling to be good at anything. He can’t finish, he’s become an average rebounder, and the defense has disappeared like the kids when it’s time to pick up all the wrapping paper.
We miss the old Phys Ed. Please come back.
The Return of Meyers Leonard’s Touch
The yin to Davis’ yang. Davis and Legend had a great thing going last year, using their respective strengths to cover the other’s weaknesses. Davis covered the D while Meyers Leonard provided the spacing. Give Leonard credit for being one of the only Blazers to actually improve his defense. Progress has been slow on that end but it’s undeniable. He’s clearly a hard worker and he doesn’t need Davis to cover for him anymore.
However, he signed that contract because he’s a very large human who can also hit NBA threes with regularity. I’m still amazed when Leonard just tosses the ball in the hole with those push shots in the paint. His touch is unbelievable, and here’s wishing he starts to find it again in the new year.
For The Chief to Shake Off His Rust
I remember last summer when Dave picked Al-farouq Aminu as the most overrated player on Portland’s roster. He emphasized that “overrated” does not mean “bad” and I agreed with his analysis. Aminu fits into the team exceptionally well but is still, ultimately, a fairly limited player.
I still believe that’s a fair assessment but his injury has shown just how important he is to this specific team. Is it possible for a player to be overrated in terms of their overall skillset but underrated in a particular role? Because that’s what I believe has happened.
In any case, I can’t wait until Chief is back to his imperfect-yet-kind-of-perfect self again.
Recuperated Trade Value
The Evan Turner acquisition and the re-signing of Allen Crabbe were calculated. The results don’t look good now but that was a strategic decision that went beyond who they are as players. President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey and company made a bet that wing players would become more valuable as time went on.
After Portland got spurned by Chandler Parsons and Hassan Whiteside, they knew they weren’t going to make a significant jump that offseason. All the remaining players on the market were either flawed, limited, or old. No one was going to get Portland over the hump so their decisions had to set up the next move.
You can see their logic when you look around the league at all the teams looking to trade quality big men. Rather than signing a mediocre big that wasn’t going to make enough of a difference anyway, why not wait to trade for someone better later?
That plan sounds great in theory but it assumes the wings you collected as trade assets are actually valuable. Crabbe and Turner have called that into question with their lackluster play. The Blazers are clearly flawed and need assets to make adjustments. Nothing could improve Portland’s long-term outlook more than a solid month from both Crabbe and Turner right before the trade deadline. As their value rises, so does the chance of...
The Holy Grail Consolidation Trade
The one thing on every Blazer fan’s wish list. Concocting trade machine scenarios into the wee hours of the night has become a yearly tradition but it feels extra urgent this time around. Portland doesn’t have the resources to acquire a quick fix to all their ailments but a significant step in the right is certainly possible.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!