The Portland Trail Blazers are known for their offense; stars in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are ready to pop off for 20+ points apiece every night. Jusuf Nurkic lit the league ablaze in his first 20 Blazer games, and he’s been good this season, but even Nurkic Fever is running cool lately.
Outside of those three, who steps up for the Blazers is often a mystery. Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report highlights this weakness as Portland’s biggest question mark:
Did we miss the memo about the Portland Trail Blazers relocating to Bizarro World? The near-.500 record feels about right, but who had them using a dominant defense to compensate for their middling offense?
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are doing their point-producing parts … And Jusuf Nurkic is mostly meeting expectations with 15.4 points on 46.4 percent shooting.
But the Blazers look light beyond their top trio.
They finished last year with five double-digit scorers; they have three right now and no obvious candidates to join the club …
The financially motivated move to shed Allen Crabbe’s salary might help in the long run, but the Blazers are missing his scoring punch. That void will grow more glaring if Harkless can’t right the ship and Connaughton continues tapering off.
It’s often a toss-up as to who will show out for the Blazers in addition to their trio. Al-Farouq Aminu (out with injury) looked good to start the season, but his 3-point percentage (43.3) seems unsustainable compared to his career average (32.7). There’s Maurice Harkless, who has fallen off offensively besides posting up on guards. Pat Connaughton turned heads with a hot start this season, but he too has come back to earth.
Ed Davis, even with all his grit and hustle, should never be the fourth option on a winning team. Caleb Swanigan is only a rookie, no matter how far along he is.
The loss of Crabbe stings, but players have had their nights. This rings especially true for Shabazz Napier, who’s drawn compliments from Lillard and head coach Terry Stotts for his play of late. He was integral in Portland’s win over the Magic on Wednesday. Who’s to say Crabbe would really provide anything more than what the Blazers already have on their bench?
If Napier can continue to contribute in extended minutes, and the supporting cast can just do its part, the Blazers may be able to depend on their defense after all. Or if their offense picks up, and the defense stays in the upper echelon, they become that much more dangerous.