The NBA regular season has arrived and it is time to see if the Trail Blazers busy summer will bear fruit. From star guard Damian Lillard to 20-year-old center Moses Brown, Blazer’s Edge is delivering a rundown of each player on the roster.
This post discusses the new and returning players that are projected to impact the action on the court in limited bursts. Stay tuned for all five parts to our 2019-20 season preview.
Gary Trent Jr. | Shooting Guard | Age 20
Projected Role: With just 111 minutes played last season and a True Shooting Percentage of 37.7 percent, Gary Trent enters the year with modest expectations. He’s buried beneath a heaping mound of veterans at shooting guard, including CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, and Kent Bazemore. Even if Hood and Bazemore swing towards small forward, Trent will likely be a practice player, barring an injury to someone ahead of him.
Bold Prediction: Either a trade or an injury will give Trent a chance. If he has honed his three-point shot, he could be a sneaky breakout player. The big question is, will it be for the Blazers or the team he’s eventually traded to?
Skal Labissiere | Power Forward | Age 23
Projected Role: Skal Labissiere is the consummate Trail Blazers project. He’s talented, raw, under-appreciated, on a rookie contract, and he’s so easy to root for his middle name might as well be “Ice Cream Kitten”. Almost everybody looks good under Head Coach Terry Stotts. Whether Labissiere will look good enough to earn a significant role is up to debate, but he’s playing at the one position the Blazers lack. He can pass and hit shots. He’s going to get an opportunity, probably multiple chances.
Bold Prediction: It’s not impossible that Labissiere becomes a starter. It’s also not impossible for him to bust. The peak on his roof seems steep. We’re either going to see one or the other.
Pau Gasol | Power Forward | Age: Mesolithic
Projected Role: Pau Gasol was brought on for veteran experience, locker room presence, and one of the most well-rounded skill kits the league has ever seen. Injury and age have dimmed his production, but the Blazers already have experience and one of the best locker rooms in the league. They didn’t bring him on just for fun. If he can move, he will play. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 18, Coach Stotts will breathe a sigh of relief seeing him on the floor. The Blazers haven’t seen court sense like Gasol’s since Arvydas Sabonis roamed the hardwood.
Bold Prediction: Will and knowledge may not be enough. Gasol is likely to join a long list of end-of-career signings whose name value was far higher than their ability to contribute. If he can conjure one more bit of magic for a playoffs series, though, the Blazers will be amply repaid.
Anthony Tolliver | Power Forward | Age 34
Projected Role: Tolliver has spent his entire 11-year career as a backup, starting just 92 of 664 games. It’s a rare career arc. Spending your life in the middle of rotations requires bankable skills and stability. Tolliver’s include three-point shooting and reasonable defense. Fortunately for him, Portland’s power forward minutes might not depend as much on overall talent (replete at other positions) as who the candidate can play with. Tolliver’s answer to that is, “Anybody”. If the roster remains the same, he’ll get decent minutes and—ironically— may end up starting.
Bold Prediction: The Blazers will rely on Tolliver and he’ll respond well. He’ll be prone to overuse. If they go to the well too often, watch out for a late-season letdown.
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