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The Trail Blazers May Have a Minutes Problem

Portland Trail Blazers GM and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey re-signed all of his restricted free agents and added Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli and Shabazz Napier to the roster this summer in 2016 NBA free agency. How will coach Terry Stotts sort his rotations out?

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers have a good problem that could potentially present some complications. In a locker room clear of the usual issues that come to mind when we hear the word "problem" -- hurt egos, immaturity, lack of alignment, etc. -- it turns out that what Blazers fans have long pined for may instead burn them: depth.

Long-time Blazer's Edge reader Jonah Willbach submitted the following suggested minutes per game breakdown to us (of a possible 240 minutes per game):

  • Damian Lillard: 36 mpg
  • C.J. McCollum: 36
  • Evan Turner: 30
  • Al-Farouq Aminu: 30
  • Allen Crabbe: 30
  • Festus Ezeli: 24
  • Mason Plumlee: 24
  • Maurice Harkless, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh (COMBINED): 30
During the 2015-16 season, these players averaged 272 minutes per game. Granted, there are 240 total minutes to go around each game if you multiply 48 minutes by five positions, and adding up the season-long minutes per game averages of players will rarely equal that -- different contributors' minutes can fluctuate from game-to-game because of injuries and other factors, i.e. Harkless was almost an afterthought for much of the season until he proved particularly useful off the bench and eventually gained a starting role.

Still, whether you agree or disagree with the minutes totals presented, it doesn't take more than a glance to realize something's gotta give. Yes, injuries will happen, but almost everyone is slated to be healthy to start the year.

The Blazers have invested $10 million a year each in Leonard and Harkless, about $17 million a year in Turner, about $18 million a year in Crabbe, and have at least a passing interest in developing Vonleh, lest their trading of Nicolas Batum net them the equivalent of a one-year rental of Gerald Henderson and a sub-replacement-level Vonleh... and that's without mentioning Ezeli, Aminu, Davis, or Plumlee.

As it stands now, it doesn't appear that there are enough minutes to maximize every potential contributors' talents.

"In Stotts we trust," right? Portland coach Terry Stotts will surely find a way to get the right guys on the floor at the right time this year, but what if he waved his magic red and black wand making you head coach for a day -- how do you handle the rotations? Do you put a priority only on winning? Leave minutes for development? Carve out time to increase a player's trade value? Run with the best collection of talent, or the best rotations for cohesion?

There's certainly room for debate.