Injuries have cost Trail Blazers players like Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard and Al-Farouq Aminu early minutes and a chance to solidify themselves in the rotation. But the injuries also provided opportunities for others, like Pat Connaughton and even Caleb Swanigan, to get playing time right away and find their footing. With Vonleh rising to starter just as Aminu went down and Connaughton’s steady role, the forward spot has grown more busy. And now, Aminu enters back into the mix.
The forward has returned from injury to find himself in need of minutes. This means sacrifices will need to be made elsewhere. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive highlights the ever-changing rotation that comes as a result:
"Chief is going to play," Stotts said. "It's going to take a little bit of a balancing act depending on the game and matchup, how the game is going, who's playing well, what group is playing well, whether we need spacing or defense. We have lot of players at that position."
Freeman points out five different starting lineups have already tipped off for the Blazers this season. And Stotts isn’t committed to keeping Aminu off the bench:
"I liked him on the floor, whether he comes off the bench or starts," Stotts said. "I can see him doing both. Eventually, he will start some games. I don't know the answer to that right now. But Noah will start (Saturday) and we'll see how that goes.”
With Aminu’s return, that also takes up a spot on Portland’s active list, meaning a back-end rotation player like Swanigan or Zach Collins will end up inactive. It was Swanigan who was inactive Thursday night against the Bucks, but Stotts isn’t committed to that always being the case either:
"I think that's going to be game-to-game (with) those two guys," Stotts said. "I don't want to say they'll alternate. But it'll fluctuate.”
Stotts pointed to liking Collins’ length against the Bucks as the reason he kept him active.
Freeman acknowledges that Maurice Harkless seems the odd man out, having taken the bump from the starting rotation when Connaughton rose the ranks. This comes after the forward spoke out about his role on the court. With the fluid rotation, he may find difficulty playing back into it with scrap minutes to make do with, or he may find himself the beneficiary of a strong stretch that catapults him back into a contributing role. It sounds like anything can happen right now at the forward spot.