Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic. Those are the players we know will be in the Portland Trail Blazers’ starting lineup come the regular season, but two spots are still seemingly up for grabs. The team is loaded with options at small forward and power forward with no clear frontrunner at either position. In the Trail Blazers’ preseason opener tonight, we get our first look at head coach Terry Stotts’ experimentation. Team digital reporter Casey Holdahl notes that, this time, Evan Turner and Ed Davis get the nod.
Ed Davis and Evan Turner are listed as starters at forward for tonight's game versus Phoenix— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) October 3, 2017
This could be a starting lineup we see more of moving forward, but, then again, possible combinations vary widely. Stotts also has Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Caleb Swanigan, Zach Collins, Meyers Leonard, and an eventually healthy Noah Vonleh to consider. We will likely see multiple pairings in the coming week, barring that unforeseen magical click.
Jason Quick of NBC Sports NW writes that playing Harkless and Aminu together has previously yielded good results, but there are other factors to consider.
Stotts has favored the Harkless/Aminu combination in the past because he likes their defensive versatility in being able to switch interchangeably.
However, last season, he eventually went to Vonleh as the starting power forward after Aminu had early season injuries to his calf and back.
“Chief got hurt and that kind of changed the dynamics of the season,’’ Stotts said.
Another factor to consider is Turner, who started to find his footing late in January once he was made the starting small forward. Turner took on the opposing team’s point guard defensively, and started getting into more of an offensive rhythm when he broke his hand at Dallas in February.
The upside here is versatility. Stotts has the pieces to accommodate most styles of play, ideally creating favorable matchups. The possible downside is ill-defined roles and a lack of continuity, although, with the vast majority of the players returning from last season, that will hopefully be mitigated and even addressed directly.
Whose name do you want to hear called with Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic on opening night? What are you looking for from Turner and Davis tonight?