The front court bench of the Portland Trail Blazers will look a little different this upcoming season, as the venerable Ed Davis has moved on to Brooklyn. Zach Collins will almost certainly be the top big man off the bench in terms of minutes, and unless the team opts to go small, the only remaining candidates to help fill the void left by Davis’ departure will be Caleb Swanigan and Meyers Leonard.
For Swanigan, the key to seeing the floor will be his excellent rebounding ability. He crashes the glass with the tenacity Blazers fans became accustomed to seeing Easy Ed display on a nightly basis for the last few seasons. Unfortunately, the rest of his game leaves a lot to be desired. While he has a strong passing ability, and has shown flashes of his shooting ability, he can’t be counted on at this point as a reliable scorer and has also had trouble screening effectively without fouling. On the defensive end, his lack of quickness makes him a liability against faster forwards, and his lack of height and vertical leap hurts his ability to consistently defend the rim, particularly in today’s hyper-athletic game.
That being said, his rebounding alone could lead to some minutes, particularly alongside Zach Collins against teams with more traditional big men. Collins played his best alongside Davis last season, who’s game has similarities with the young Swanigan, albeit much more polished. If the second unit struggles on the glass, Caleb could be presented with an opportunity to shine, as long as his limitations don’t outweigh his contributions.
Biggie’s likely role will be as a player who can come off the bench and provide a quick burst of energy, similar to that of a Thomas Robinson, though without the athleticism. If he is able to refine his overall game more, a bigger role may come, particularly if Leonard, who has been plagued with inconsistency throughout his career, gets off to a poor start. Leonard will probably get the first crack at the extra minutes now available, but it’s important for Swanigan to remain focused and ready should his number be called.