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Tokito Praises Trail Blazers’ Versatility

Writing for Forbes, the veteran sportswriter takes an in-depth look at the team’s recent road trip.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As the Portland Trail Blazers prepare for a six-game homestand, you have to consider the first road trip of the season a success, with wins coming against the Magic, Pacers and Rockets. Even the lone loss, against the Heat, featured a spirited comeback effort. For Mike Tokito of Forbes, the biggest takeaway from the recent trip was the wide variety of players, particularly those off the bench, contributing to the victory — something that has been sorely missing.

Writes Tokito,

But the Blazers showed one night before, in a rugged 103-93 win at Indiana, that they have a bench that can carry the scoring load when needed. Portland’s reserves outscored the starters, 54-49, something that happened just once all last season, in a blowout loss to Denver. Sunday’s effort came in the service of a win against a Pacers team that won 48 games last season, a sign that the bench is ready to become a genuine strength for Portland, especially when the reserves play Stotts’ preferred “flow” style of offense. The bench produced 13 of the Blazers’ 19 assists against the Pacers.

“Our bench was outstanding,” Stotts said. “You look up and down the line, look at the plus-minus.”

He points out that the team hasn’t seen this level of scoring from their second unit in a decade:

The breakout player of the trip was second-year big man Zach Collins, who was a defensive force inside, altering shots at the rim and being so effective, he has finished several games in place of Nurkic. And he has started to become a significant factor on offense, scoring in double figures four times this season, something he did seven times all last regular season, and once in the playoffs. For the trip, Collins averaged 13.5 points and shot 67.9 percent from the field, and for the season, he is averaging 11.1 points.

Nik Stauskas has also become a valuable scorer off the bench, averaging 10.1 points, and Evan Turner is averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists while playing a point-forward role off the bench. The last Portland player who has primarily a reserve and averaged double-figure scoring was Allen Crabbe in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The last time Portland had two reserves average double-digit scoring was 2008-09, with Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez.

The team will look to build on the momentum gained during the recent trip with a chance at redemption against the New Orleans Pelicans, who come to town Thursday night.

You can read Tokito’s full article here.