Zach Lowe of ESPN.com takes the Portland Trail Blazers offense to task in the latest edition of his column “10 Things I Like and Don’t Like” (about the NBA). Calling Portland “out of sync”, Lowe excoriates their offense, pulling out the five-syllable words:
The Blazers rank a shocking 27th in points per possession, and they score at only a league-average rate when both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are on the floor.
All the cutting and screening in Terry Stotts’ system is (smartly) designed to make an oligarchical offense seem egalitarian to everyone else playing in it. Every part of that system has shifted toward an unhealthy extreme.
The Blazers are down to 28th in passes per game, tossing about 15 fewer than they did two and three seasons ago, per NBA.com. They rely more on isolation plays and shots McCollum and Lillard jack after scooting around picks -- and less on spot-up attempts from other guys. (They lead the league in shots from pick-and-roll ball handlers.) Only the slow-poke Mavs and Spurs generate fewer transition chances, per Cleaning The Glass.
Lowe offers a video breakdown illustrating his points (which are always mandatory watches) before bringing it home with an assurance...of sorts.
Portland is 19-18, with an improved defense. There is no crisis here. But this is an expensive team that has won 44 and 41 games since LaMarcus Aldridge bolted, and it just can’t nudge its way out of mediocrity.
The Blazers are spending $122 million this year for that .500 record. They’re already committed to $110 million next season with 0 of 4 restricted free agents signed, including starting center Jusuf Nurkic. “Expensive” may be an understatement. We’ll find out over the next few months whether Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen considers the situation a crisis and if so, what he’ll do about it. Meanwhile Lillard and McCollum will continue to shine and, likely, Lowe will need to make another trip to the thesaurus before the season is done.