The Portland Trail Blazers finished off their final preseason game with a 118-115 win over the Sacramento Kings. Meyers Leonard was the star of the show, showing off to the tune of 17 points, and 9 rebounds. He shot 7-8 from the floor, 3-4 from three, and had a block in 24 minutes. The Kings, who are coming off a 39 point shellacking by the Utah Jazz yesterday, hung in with Portland the entire game, and were a Frank Mason III three pointer at the buzzer away from sending it to overtime. The Blazers finish the preseason with 3 wins to 2 losses.
There is a vast difference between regular season and preseason but there are a few trends in the 5 Blazer preseason games that may carry over to the games that matter.
Getting out and running
The Blazers were dead last in transition frequency last season, and, at least in preseason, it looks like something they are trying to improve on. There is clearly a sense of urgency to get out and run, on makes, misses, and turnovers. That urgency can be found throughout the roster. At some point this preseason, every player who played substantial minutes, other than Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins, grabbed a rebound and took a few aggressive advancing dribbles up the court. This will more than likely change during the regular season, but the message is there. Push the ball.
As the primary ball handler pushes, the rest of the team is following suit. The wings are getting down the floor in a hurry, looking for opportunities while issuing space by spreading out above the free throw line extended. The big men, especially Caleb Swanigan, Jusuf Nurkic, and Meyers Leonard, sprint down the floor and gain position under the basket, not just next to it. That’s significant and hard for young bigs to comprehend. The team effort gives hope that we will see more of the same in the regular season.
Some help from outside?
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum made just under half of all of Portland’s three pointers last season, the highest percentage for any two players in the NBA. Throw Al-Farouq Aminu into that stat and those three jump up to 64% of all of the Blazers’ deep balls last year. This preseason gave hope that help could be on the way. Here is how some of the other Blazer role players fared during the preseason:
Zach Collins: 3/6 50%
Jusuf Nurkic: 3/9 33%
Nik Stauskas: 8/20 40%
Seth Curry: 5/14 38%
Jake Layman: 9/18 50%
Meyers Leonard 8/11 73%
The Blazers’ offseason was a quiet one, but for the first time in the Lillard/McCollum era, there may be ample shooters on the roster. If Portland can keep up the pace and spread the floor efficiently, like there was in the preseason, there may be reason for optimism.
The Regular season! First game is Thursday Oct 18th at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. Tune in all next week for extended previews and all the things we’re looking forward to in the coming year!