The Portland Trail Blazers faced Haifa Maccabi in their final preseason game of 2017 tonight. The Blazers opted to rest every non-rookie rotation player other than Jusuf Nurkic, only playing him for a quarter. They still managed to win 129-81 against their outgunned opponents, starting the game on a 20-2 run and never looking back.
Since the play was one-sided and the analysis not applicable beyond tonight, we move straight to observations of the players who will be vying for lower-rotation spots on the roster, all of whom got significant minutes.
Jake Layman - Aside from Nurkic, Jake Layman was the best player on the court for the Blazers tonight. His three-point shot was smooth and confident. He hit two right off the bat to get the Blazers going to start the game, then another to start the second half. Layman finished 4-7 from deep and 9-14 overall for 24 total points. His readiness to shoot off the catch impressed; everything that he put up looked like it was going in. He had a couple solid blocks and a very nice alley-oop in secondary transition. Despite occasional gaffes—botching a one-on-zero fast break and letting up the defense halfway through the game—Layman showed off the skill set of a legit NBA rotation player. He is a league above Europe’s best.
Pat Connaughton - “Fastball” Pat had himself a night with 18 points on 6-10 field goals (2-3 from 3), with 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks. It was good to see him show aggression in the paint, getting to the line 5 times. He has struggled to do so against bigger players in the past. Pat also acted as de facto play maker with the regulars all on the bench. He made plays when he got in the key, including a great one-handed pass off the dribble for an open three.
Zach Collins - Collins has struggled with the physicality of the NBA since he entered Summer League, so this was a good opportunity to show his skills against non-NBA talent. He still struggled. He received the ball on the block a few times, but he plays a bully post game trapped in a finesse body. He’s has not had success on the block with that yet. When open for a mid-range jumper on the catch, he put his head down and dribbled into traffic instead of being ready to shoot. Other than that, he looked great. He rebounded well, ran great cuts off the ball for easy baskets, made all 3 of his three-point attempts, and was aggressive trying to play his man. He finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds, a good showing.
Caleb Swanigan - Swanigan played much better than his stat line of 7 points and 5 rebounds showed. He raised havoc on the boards, creating second possessions even when he was not the one corralling the rebound. He may lead the league in “offensive rebounds created for others”. His man-to-man perimeter defense is great as long as he has that split second to face up and gain his balance first. A three-pointer placed a nice feather in the cap of a solid game.
Archie Goodwin - Goodwin was exponentially more aggressive today in the getting to the rim than he has been this preseason. Once he got a head of steam going, Maccabi had no way to stop him. As a result, he got to the line 13 times. He’s long and a good finisher once he gets in there. With a bankable go-to drive every possession, he hardly took a shot outside of 5 feet tonight. After the game, the Blazers announced that Goodwin, along with Anthony Morrow and Isaiah Briscoe, were released from the team.
Oz Blayzer - Blayzer was just some guy playing for Maccabi, but his name alone make him worth mentioning. New 15th man?
Check out our video recap for highlights of the evening.
Portland’s regular season begins next Wednesday versus the Phoenix Suns. Stay tuned to Blazer’s Edge as we anticipate the start of the 2017-18 campaign!