How have the Trail Blazers handled expectations this season? Has the debate over Maurice Harkless and Jake Layman been put to rest? Danny and Tara are joined by Dave Deckard, Cassidy Gemmet, Miles Custis, Steve DeWald and akicks of BlazersEdge.com as we go over what we’ve seen from the Blazers so far this season.
Has the team met, exceeded or fallen below expectations? Which first round match up would be best for the playoffs? What do the Blazers have to accomplish in the post-season to preserve the core of this team? All this and more on the latest Blazer’s Edge podcast.
1:39 Considering how you were feeling going into the season, do you feel like the Blazers have met, exceeded or fallen short of expectations?
Steve: It will come down to the playoffs. For the regular season, they have kind of exceeded, but will reserve judgement until the playoffs.
Miles: Nationally people seem to think the have exceeded.
Dan: They are winning games, there is no asterisks for this season. They are meeting expectations. Its playoffs or bust.
Paul: They have exceeded. I expected at this point they would be in the mix for a playoff spot, didn’t expect to have optimism about the playoffs.
Cassidy: Local perspective we are meeting, national perspective they are exceeding. Getting national buzz this time.
4:30 What has surprised you the most this season?
Paul: Damian Lillard has another gear. Jusuf Nurkic has improved so dramatically in the little things that make a difference.
Miles: Worried Nurkic getting a payday might affect his performance but it hasn’t. And Consistency
Steve: Mid season acquisitions. Off season moves were like scraping the bottom of the barrel, these latest additions were unexpected especially considering the cap situation.
Dan: Nurkic did homework and learned what he needed to do to get better and then did it. Now his top half moves are in sync with his footwork.
Cassidy: Didn’t see Enes Kanter trade coming.
Tara: Moe Harkless’ maturity, and figuring out what his role was.
11:30 Is the Moe Harkless/Jake Layman debate resolved?
Dan: Jake is better served off the bench because he is the most pliable guy to flex into the rotation.
Steve: Harkless because right now Jake is adjusting to the scouting report. He will get through that, but it is something that players on the Third Year Blazer Bump have to work through.
Paul: The debate is over in terms of starting but not in who finishes, that will always be dependent on who is playing well.
14:30 Miles: How much do you think Moe’s early season struggles were due to injury?
Steve: Hard to tell from the outside.
Dan: We were all surprised when we learned at media day that Harkless would be out a while. Not sure its the whole reason though.
Tara: We can try to do our best through observation, but there has been a lot of positive body language on the court.
Dan: Post All Star Break Harkless is more energetic than any Harkless we’ve seen before.
18:00 Preferred playoff match up
Steve: Avoid James Harden like the plague.
Miles: Clippers because they don’t have a superstar who can take over.
Dan: Houston would not be fun to watch, but James Harden and Chris Paul are unproven in game seven situations. Counterpoint: Damian Lillard’s match up with Chris Paul is grim.
Tara; Beating the Rockets would be so fun
Paul: Anybody but the Rockets.
Cassidy: Doesn’t want to see Oklahoma City Thunder based on the season series
Dave: Jazz would be best entertainment in terms of even match up. If Blazers get a low seed, they should hope to see the Nuggets. Plus that keeps you out of Golden State’s bracket.
Dan: The two games coming up against Denver could be big confidence builders.
Steve: Denver is an attractive one because their coach is unproven and Milsap is their only player with playoff experience.
Dave: Portland can run different people constantly at him.
Steve: We would probably rather see Denver in the second round.
Dan: Blake Griffin is Paul Milsap-like. Portland was able to respond to him because Aminu was able to get back whatever he gave up with offense.
28:51 How far in the playoffs do the Blazers have to go in the playoffs in order to preserve the core of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.
Steve: They have to get out of the first round and not get swept in the second.
Miles: Don’t think the necessarily need to get out of the first round, it is going to depend on the situation. OKC should be a good match up because they have a lot of pressure to get out of the first round as well.
Cassidy: We’re heading into a bonkers free agency season, so it’s hard to say.
Paul: It might not matter how they do, they still won’t have money and space to replace the players they are losing.
Dave: They can’t not shop the expiring contracts. It might be the market that drives changes, not when they lose in the playoffs (editors note: if they lose)
Dan: It is possible that Terry Stotts is the person who needs this win the most.
Dave: Olshey may be evaluated too. They could also luxury tax their way into oblivion.
39:30 What is one thing you were going to watch for this season and how has it played out?
Tara: Nurkic dunks
Miles: Development of Zach Collins. It has been a mixed bag. He has nice flashes on defense but the offense has been rough.
Cassidy: How was Evan Turner as the facilitator of the second unit going to work?
Steve: Can Zach Collins develop a post game? Still not there. But really been just waiting for the playoff and seeing if the team has another gear.
Dan: How is Nurkic going to be a 17 and 11 guy? Up the field goal percentage just a little bit. Also, Nurkic has improved his free throw shooting significantly, that has made a big difference. He’s even clutch in free throw.
Steve: The coaching staff has had great success with turning poor free throw shooters into good free throw shooters.
Dan: Dame goes into a different dimension when he has the ball.
Paul: For CJ McCollum to add another high quality skill. Still waiting. Love McCollum but still waiting.
Dave: No slow start and can you bounce back after losses? Good start and no big losing streaks. Team wise they’ve done just about anything we’ve ever asked.
Tara: And let’s just all be thankful for Damian Lillard.
Dave: Lillard has expanded his game to whatever space he was needed. He has been able to do whatever is needed of him (save make the NBA All Defensive team).
49:20 Wrap up.
Follow us @SteveDHoops, @MilesCustis @CassidyGemmet, @DMarang, @DaveDeckard, @tcbbiggs and find Paul on BlazersEdge as akicks.