The Portland Trail Blazers’ offense post-LaMarcus Aldridge has featured heavy isolation play from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. This showed last year when the team’s assist numbers dropped to last in the league, only the second time Portland has ever bottomed-out in that category.
The Blazers started off the 2018-2019 season in a similar fashion, recording minimal assists and depending on Lillard and McCollum’s shot creation abilities. But behind Jusuf Nurkic’s emerging passing skills and Jake Layman’s constant off-ball movement, the Blazers are generating more assisted buckets and reaping the benefits.
Joe Freeman of the Oregonian/OregonLive details how Nurkic has contributed to Portland’s passing turnaround:
But their increase in assists also has come thanks to the emergence of Jusuf Nurkic, whose passing has been so exceptional, the Blazers have been running more of their offense through him. Whether passing out of double-teams on the block or reading the defense from the top of the key — where he has become adept at both hitting cutting teammates near the rim and heaving cross-court passes for threes — Nurkic’s evolution has been significant.
He also discusses Layman’s impact as said by head coach Terry Stotts:
Stotts was also quick to tout Jake Layman’s cutting. His emergence as a scoring threat off the bench has added a new wrinkle to the Blazers’ offense, most notably with backdoor cuts and alley-oop lobs.
The stats certainly support Nurkic and Layman’s immediate effect on the Blazers’ ball movement. Read more about those numbers and the players’ thoughts here.