Whether its injuries, shuffled lineups, getting beat on the boards, inconsistent shooting or a myriad of other reasons, the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled this season. The fact that there isn’t just a thing or two that you can point at and say “fix this and they’ll be okay” makes it even harder to figure out exactly where things are going wrong and what they can do to fix it.
Yes, there are injuries that are forcing players up in the rotation and out of position. That can’t be overstated enough- but I wanted to take a look at where things are going wrong after that. If the Blazers are looking for any glimmer of hope, where will they hope to find it?
Even after you consider the injuries to the team, there’s still supposed to be more than enough effective shooters on the roster. The problem is, of the players who have real volume this year (Top 5 in attempts) - only Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Hassan Whiteside are posting effective field goal percentages above league average for their positions (Rodney Hood is shooting exceptionally well on lesser volume).
CJ McCollum had a rough 10-game start and his recent production has lifted him up to slightly below league average, meanwhile new additions; Kent Bazemore (11th percentile), Anthony Tolliver (5th%) and Mario Hezonja (3rd%) are scraping the bottom of the league for their positions.
A surge from McCollum, Bazemore getting anywhere near league average with Hood and Simons getting an up-tick in volume and Portland could hope to make some gains here. It’s likely not enough to change the tides, but they need every little thing they can find.
Where the injuries are likely affecting things, at the rim. The Blazers are 28th in the league (30.2%) when it comes to shots at the rim. No Jusuf Nurkic, a less-than-healthy Hassan Whiteside, no Zach Collins and a bevy of wing players who prefer to shoot outside (and when they do go inside the team is 29th in the league) and you have a recipe for less than optimal chances in the paint. Outside of personnel changes, you’re likely not going to get a lot of growth here.
Portland is currently 20th in the league in points allowed in the half court (per 100) and they’re allowing the 3rd most transition opportunities. Where there’s a glimmer of hope is that Portland is actually only allowing the 7th least amount of points (per 100) in transition. So while teams are trying to run them, they’ve done a great job of stifling those opportunities pretty regularly.
As far as where Portland can look to make gains? It’s pretty much everywhere inside the three point line. They’re fouling the 5th most per game, putting opponents on the line 28.4 times per game (league worst).
Putting It Together
The Blazers haven’t had a game where they’ve put it together on both ends yet. They’ve only had two games all season where they’ve been above league average on both offense and defense (below).
So if you’re looking for some sort of opportunity, being able to put a game together on both ends, while keeping an opponent off the line while getting more good looks out of the guys not named Damian Lillard and Portland might be able to steal a win from a decent team and secure one against the bottom rung. However, unless changes are headed their way with personnel soon, they’re probably up against the wall when it comes to the teams still really pushing and believing in a playoff spot.