Friday morning, Ben Rohrback of Yahoo Sport’s Ball Don’t Lie tackled the biggest disappointments of the the 2016-17 NBA season, and No. 1 on the list? The Portland Trail Blazers.
I guess we should’ve seen this coming.
The Blazers signed Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli for a combined $85 million, and true to form, they’ve combined for all of 0.6 win shares this season. Of course, Portland had to spend its $24 million in cap space on someone this past summer, since tying up the core that won them 44 games and a playoff series last season will take them over the cap for the foreseeable future. But Turner and Ezeli?
Rohrback starts off by identifying the “who,” before the “why.” Targeting Turner for most of the negative play attributed to the Blazers, BDL uses lineup data to make its case.
Like it or not, the problems begin when Turner and, to a lesser degree, Noah Vonleh take the court. Blazers coach Terry Stotts has yet to find a two-man combo involving Turner that can outperform opponents. When Turner and Lillard share the floor, it’s a disaster, and you don’t even want to know what happens when Turner and Vonleh play together.
While Turner’s play has started to turn the corner into the positive for a lot of Blazers observers, he dug himself a hole so deep it’s nearly impossible to climb all the way out of it. Rohrback goes as far as stating that Turner himself is a defensive liability.
The Blazers weren’t good defensively last season, their 105.6 defensive rating ranking 20th in 2015-16, but that was still almost four points-per-100 better than they are now. They still rank among the league’s three best teams at defending the rim, as they did last season, but opponents are shooting at a higher percentage from almost every other zone on the floor. That’s what can happen when you mix a third defensive liability to a backcourt that already featured two.
If you take an objective stance, is there a team that has underperformed expectations more than the Trail Blazers?
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