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Thorpe, Abbott Have Advice for Trail Blazers After Nurkic Injury

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Four ways the Blazers can cope with losing their center.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers will not be the same without injured center Jusuf Nurkic, but David Thorpe and Henry Abbott of the newly-resurrected TrueHoop suggest they can still prosper, albeit unconventionally.

In an article written for the NBA-centric site (subscription required) Thorpe offers four keys for Portland’s success. The first involves using their reserve center’s range to put more pressure on the defense.

Kanter from deep Enes Kanter, the logical replacement for Nurkic, has made two 3-pointers this season. But he needs to shoot a lot of them, starting now. Every practice and every game. Opposing defenders don’t guard him out there, at all, because he’s taken so few deep shots in his career. The Blazers have better shooting big men than Kanter in Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins. But they need to play Kanter, because Leonard and Collins would get killed on the glass by the West’s playoff bigs. Kanter is the far better rebounder and thus the answer. He doesn’t look to shoot, but his form looks fine. With Kanter making 3s, it would allow more playing time for Maurice Harkless, another non-shooter. They need that extra shooter to create driving lanes for Lillard and McCollum, who can then score or kick out to those shooters, with Harkless lurking in the “dunk spot” just behind the rim to punish his man helping on those drivers.

Thorpe’s advice then ranges to defensive schemes, scoring priorities, and targeted help from the supporting cast.

In direct conversation with Blazer’s Edge, Abbott supports Thorpe’s assertions:

I’ll be totally honest, having now been thinking about Thorpe’s ideas for several days since I read the first draft of his story, and having known him for several years, I think there is an important principle at work here, now, for this team.

+If you’re the favorites, or expect to win a fair fight, fight conventionally.

+If you’re the underdog, choosing to fight conventionally is a gift to your opponent.

Of course, 3s are the NBA’s great destabilizing force. Shoot enough of them and basketball becomes more like soccer or football, where luck can carry an underdog on any given day. Now that I’ve read [Thorpe’s piece], I really do hope we start seeing more 3s from everyone, as he suggests, but especially [eek!] Kanter.

As mentioned above, TrueHoop is back alive, in new form. It was, and remains, the premier source for NBA insight. I don’t usually go out on limbs, but this one is solid: if you are going to subscribe to any paywall-oriented site, TrueHoop has to be it. Those famous, huge pay-for-play networks with all their glitter won’t give you the insight on the Blazers, let alone the league, that TrueHoop gives in passing on a Thursday. When these people speak, it’s time to listen. Check out the article and subscribe for more.

—Dave