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Blazers 2021-22 Season Preview: Deep Bench

A quick look at the Blazers players that are battling for rotation minutes this season.

Sacramento Kings v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

The countdown is on to the start of the 2021-22 NBA regular season for the Portland Trail Blazers. Blazer’s Edge will be running our season preview from now until the Blazers tip off the year against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. This preview details the players that are on the end of the bench.

Nassir Little

2020-21 Stats

PTS: 4.6 | REB: 2.7 | FG%: 46.7 | 3P%: 35.0 | Games Played: 48 (two starts)

Little, who was selected with the No. 25 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, has endured a series of setbacks to start his career. His run in the 2020 postseason was sidetracked by a fall in practice. Last season, a preseason case of COVID-19 resulted in Little missing valuable time in the lead up to his second NBA season.

Now entering his third season, Little has an opportunity to burst into coach Chauncey Billups’ rotation. Unfortunately, Little didn’t get a chance to impress this preseason. Little went 1-for-9 from the field and committed five turnovers in his only outing. He missed Portland’s final three contests with a hamstring injury. Even with another slow start to the season unfolding, the window is wide open for Little to secure a meaningful role.

Tony Snell

2020-21 Stats

PTS: 5.3 | REB: 2.4 | FG%: 51.5 | 3P%: 56.9 | Games Played: 47 (23 starts)

Snell, a 29-year-old forward, landed with the Blazers on a minimum deal this offseason. He has carved out a role in the past few years as a low-usage, but highly efficient option. Seriously, he hasn’t missed a free throw since the 2018-19 season. Snell attempted just 3.6 field goals per game with the Hawks, but he managed to hit on over 50 percent of his attempts.

Due to a foot injury, Snell missed the entire preseason. Once he returns, he is likely to compete with Little for backup minutes at small forward.

Ben McLemore

2020-21 Stats

PTS: 7.7 | REB: 1.9 | FG%: 37.0 | 3P%: 34.6 | Games Played: 53 (five starts)

Selected three spots ahead of CJ McCollum in the 2013 NBA Draft, McLemore is starting the 2021-22 season on his fifth team in five seasons. All that movement does a disservice to his time with the Rockets. McLemore was a legitimate contributor in Houston during the 2019-20 season. If he can replicate his play from that season, McLemore could find minutes with the Blazers.

The Rest of the Bench

Greg Brown III: The 20-year-old rookie has NBA-ready athleticism, but he needs to add polish to his game. Most his growth will occur behind the scenes. That said, you can expect to see a few late-game dunks from Brown in garbage time.

Dennis Smith Jr: The former lottery pick won a four-player race to claim a roster spot. Smith Jr. is only 23 years old and he has plenty of upside left. Now that expectations are lower, he could find a home in Portland.

CJ Elleby: The former Washington State wing appeared in 30 games as a rookie. He played in all four preseason contests and averaged 6.8 points per game. From an efficiency standpoint, Elleby connected on 41.7 percent of his field goal attempts and 28.6 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Elleby enters this season on the final year of his rookie contract.

Trendon Watford (two-way): Watford has an assortment of skills on the offensive end to build on. Watford’s development will come from behind the scenes or on a G League assignment.

Keljin Blevins (two-way): Blevins logged 38 minutes over three preseason outings. He failed to record a single point during that time frame. Blevins did log two rebounds, three turnovers, and four personal fouls. Of the players inside this preview, only Snell and McLemore are older.

Also See Our Previous Season Preview Posts:

Damian Lillard

CJ McCollum

Robert Covington

Jusuf Nurkic

Larry Nance Jr.

Norman Powell

Cody Zeller

Anfernee Simons