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 spotlights the players tasked with carrying the load alongside Portland’s premier backcourt. Stay tuned for all five parts to our 2019-20 season preview.
Zach Collins | Power Forward | Age 21.926
Projected Role: Internal development from Zach Collins is the Great Hope for the Trail Blazers this season. They’ll ask if he can play power forward. They’ll ask him to back up at center. They’ll ask if he can slice, dice, and make julienne fries. He’ll be working concession stands at Moda Center, tuning up the team jet on the road, and juggling yogurt-filled fishbowls of doom to shore up Portland’s front line. His defensive instincts are great. His offense remains unpolished, his effectiveness hampered by fouls. Hope is one thing, production is another. Will this be a Dirk Nowitzki “we told you” season for the young big or is he still just Zach Collins, despite Portland’s need for something more?
Bold Prediction: Collins is going to blossom from defensive Wunderkind to full-on stalwart, making Blazers fans drool over blocked shots and stops. If his halfcourt offense evokes face palms, the Blazers will need to shift Hassan Whiteside away from the middle (and eventually off the court) to let Collins operate off of cuts inside. If they can’t manage that, they won’t be able to play him as much as they need.
Rodney Hood | Shooting Guard | Age 27
Projected Role: Rodney Hood did well for the Blazers after coming over in a trade deadline deal last season. He shone like the light of a thousand suns in Portland’s second-round series against the Denver Nuggets, pushing the Blazers over the top in a seven-game nail-biter. Freedom to shoot threes or create, plus an extra gear defensively, made Hood more valuable than he’s been since his heyday in Utah. If the playoffs version shows up during the regular season, the Blazers are going to look REALLY nice at the wing positions.
Bold Prediction: Hood will create a problem for Head Coach Terry Stotts, who will not be able to keep him off the floor. The Blazers will end up running three-guard sets on the regular to accommodate him.
Hassan Whiteside | Center | Age: 30
Projected Role: Hassan Whiteside was Portland’s off-season replacement for Enes Kanter, himself a replacement for the injured Jusuf Nurkic. Kanter could do most everything Nurkic did offensively, and he stepped up impressively on defense during the playoffs. Whiteside brings none of the offense, but blocks shots like the ghost of Theo Ratliff while rebounding like a demon. As spooky as that sounds, Whiteside has been known to put as much pressure on his own team as the opponent. His lack of offensive repertoire leaves the lane clogged and/or opposing defenders able to concentrate on guards. Whiteside has been known to look slow and unmotivated. He’s also been a game-changing force. He’s seldom been one or the other for an entire season. At this point, he’s all the Blazers have for a proven center. Portland will hope a contract year, plus wonderful teammates, plus the chance for a fresh start combine to rejuvenate Whiteside’s career. If not, Collins better be able to play center and power forward at the same time.
Bold Prediction: Whiteside will look great in stretches, but in the aggregate won’t be consistent enough to allow Portland to take the next step forward. Fouls and inability to get out to the perimeter will put a dent in his effectiveness, and Portland fans will ultimately be fine with giving him up when Nurkic returns.
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