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Mom’s Favorite: Skal Labissiere Strong in Increased Role

Skal Labissiere and Anthony Tolliver step up and Rodney Hood is all-in. This week’s Mom’s Favorite highlights rotation players going the extra mile.

Portland Trail Blazers v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Each week, Team Mom highlights her favorite plays, players and other things that made the Trail Blazers fun to watch. Who is Mom’s Favorite this week? What were your favorite things that happened this week? Let us know in the comments below.

Week 2: October 27-November 2. Dallas Mavericks (W), San Antonio Spurs (L), Oklahoma City Thunder (W), Philadelphia 76ers (L)

Mom’s Favorite: Skal Labissiere

We all have our own ways of evaluating players--eye test, analytics, usually a little bit of both. One thing I do is an emotional check-in with myself when a player has the ball. How does it make me feel? Damian Lillard? Give him the ball and I feel safe and warm. CJ McCollum? Anticipation and a bit of a thrill. When Al-Farouq Aminu had the ball in his hands last season, I felt a unique mixture of excitement and queasiness, kind of like what I imagine bungee jumping would be like if I ever had the nerve.

My gut-check for young players is how much do I wonder, “What in the heck is he doing?” For continuing to not stress me out even with a heavier load to pull, Skal Labissiere is Mom’s Favorite this week.

With the exception of 2019’s regular season finale (AKA The Game that Anfernee Simons Destroyed the League) Labissiere has never logged more than 11 minutes in a Trail Blazers’ game. In three games without Zach Collins, he’s averaged 18.8 minutes, 10.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, one assist, and 1.3 blocks. Of course, more minutes lead to more opportunities so I’m not surprised about this increase in production, nor am I too disappointed in the uptick in turnovers (1.7) and personal fouls (3.7).

Good things just seem to happen when Skal is in. His field goal percentage this year is 66.7, much higher than his career average of 48.7 which makes me think that he is taking smarter shots. After Collins and Whiteside, he has the most screen assists and points off screen assists. He is the only bench player who has a positive plus/minus. He is averaging more offensive rebounds than defensive, in large part because he fought for six against San Antonio.

Most exciting to me is the connection he seems to have with Damian Lillard. This play wasn’t elegant (or even particularly smooth in its execution): a slipped pick, a wrap-around pass ending with a Damian three, but at no time was I wondering if Skal knew what he was doing. He’s technically proficient enough to give confidence and consistent enough in execution that his teammates trust him and that is exactly what the Trail Blazers need right now as he fills out the rotation for the bigs.

Honorable Mention

Anthony Tolliver joined the starting lineup when Zach Collins went down and has acquitted himself well. After taking only four shots and missing all of them over the first three games, Tolliver finally found the bottom of the net against San Antonio. In addition to scoring, he impacted the rest of the box score as well. As a starter he has averaged 6.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, .7 blocks and .7 steals. You would have to go all the way back to 2010 to find better assists, blocks and steals numbers.

Here he is sinking a triple:

And showing some defensive versatility with a steal:

Get well soon Hoody! Rodney Hood has been outstanding this season. He is averaging career highs in all of his shooting percentages (field goal percentage, true shooting, effective) by a wide margin. He is also recording more rebounds, steals and blocks per game. Here is is, icing the game against Oklahoma City.

After he fell in the Sixers game and stayed down, I was crushed for him, knowing how well he has been playing. We are all hoping for a speedy recovery from injury for the Blazers’ most automatic bucket-getter right now not named Damian Lillard.

CJ McCollum fast break points. So far this season, the Blazers have boosted the number of fast break points to 15 per game (up from 11 last season). CJ McCollum currently leads the team in fast break points, averaging 4.2 per game.

Corner 3s. Over the last four years the Blazers have been in the bottom third in the league in both the percentage of 3-point attempts they take from the corner and the shooting percentage on corner 3s. This year they have increased the number of attempts from 5.0 per game to 5.9 per game with their shooting percentage rising from 36.6 to 43.8 percent. While Rodney Hood’s blistering 58% from the corners has been a revelation through six games, I’ll leave you with this shot by Anfernee Simons which almost won them the game against Philadelphia. Because you know what? It was great. We’ll just pretend the game ended there, shall we?

Finally, let’s enjoy the Kent Bazemore experience. He is fun, and every team should have a guy who is fun. Whether he is getting blocks:

Diving to the floor:

Or doing whatever this is:

Bazemore adds a little special sauce that I didn’t know I needed to every game.

That is it for this week’s Mom’s Favorites. What were your favorite things that happened with the Trail Blazers this week? Let us know in the comments below.

xoxo Team Mom (@tcbbiggs)