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Trail Blazers Will Bank on Passing, Threes

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Portland’s new-look offense to get back to basics. Will it work, though?

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers are progressing through training camp, 2018 with a few new players, a chip on their shoulder about how the 2017 NBA Playoffs ended, and a commitment to turning over a new leaf on offense. Or, as Dane Delgado of NBCSportsNW describes in his first article for the site, a commitment to re-discovering old leaves of ball movement and three-point shooting.

After laying out some data points, Delgado describes the issue:

...those of us watching Portland in 2017-18 saw the flow of [Head Coach Terry] Stotts’ Flow offense slowly come to a halt. At times, McCollum, Turner, and Shabazz Napier were all guilty of seemingly believing they were to be paid by the dribble. Sometimes, this was even at each other’s expense.

He laid out the requisite list of new additions over the summer, most of whom can shoot from range, before launching into the revised plan:

Stotts, meanwhile, will try to alter his rotations to create more dynamic shooting options on every possession. That probably means that Lillard and McCollum will have their minutes synced up more than ever, rather than the previous plan of trying to keep at least one of them on the floor at all times. Turner and Curry will play with a bench unit that includes more range (Collins and Meyers Leonard, a benefactor of Davis’ minute vacuum).

Though it’s a little shocking to hear about the Trail Blazers needing to revise their offense (defense being the usual mantra), Delgado’s points are apt, echoed by coaching staff and front office alike. “More passing, deep shooting” is the slogan for the new season.

The root causes precipitating the change may not have been addressed, however. Ball movement, player movement, and “layups or threes” shot selection are hallmarks of Stottsian offense. The Blazers ground down into dribble-heavy play last season because passing the ball resulted in shots from players who couldn’t be trusted with them, who couldn’t carry the offense even when they did hit, or who halted the ball in the course of executing their own shots. All those players remain; new additions do not quell the worries entirely. The problem with designing an offense for Nik Stauskas to hit threes is...well...you’re designing an offense for Nik Stauskas to hit threes. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the floor, it’s hard to feel like any shot not coming from their hands is less than optimal.