Portland Trail Blazers fans know NBA analytical pioneer Zach Lowe as a 4000-word-spitting, video-presenting, scoop-snaring impresario of the virtual hardwood. Despite his heavyweight prowess in, and deep access to, the industry, Lowe has also become famous for an annual ranking so ephemeral and subjective that it could feature as the second-ever post of a novice blogger: the NBA League Pass “watchability” scale. How exciting will your team’s season be to casual observers with no emotional connection to the franchise but $199 burning a hole in their pockets for semi-addictive basketball consumption?
This year Lowe hammered the Brooklyn Nets and Denver Nuggets in Part 1 of his rankings, but Blazers fans rejoiced that their team was nowhere to be found among the bottom 15. Yesterday Part 2 came out and though the Blazers couldn’t wrest the top spot from the Golden State Warriors (those guys win everything) or even finish Top 5, Portland still came in a respectable 9th.
The Blazers are a younger, more vibrant version of Dallas on offense, which makes sense, given the imprint Terry Stotts left in Dallas before taking the head job in Portland. They work the elbows, shift the ball side-to-side, and set more off-ball screens than anyone in the league. They keep all five guys involved, and make all five defenders run. They got faster and more versatile when Al-Farouq Aminu bumped up to power forward, and they will start a version of that lineup from jump street this season.
The Blazers also raise interest because of the questions they present.
Stotts has to fit Meyers Leonard, settle the starting small forward spot, and figure out how many minutes Evan Turner should play with his two lead ball-handlers -- happy work for any lineup tinkerer.
Criteria for Lowe’s rankings include “playoffs/zeitgeist” (a German word meaning “a random sanitation engineer in Omaha will probably recognize at least one of your players”), individual highlights, playing style, accouterments, and “unintentional comedy”.