The Portland Trail Blazers have hit the quarter mark of their 2021-22 NBA Season with a 10-10 record. Given expectations of improvement, that’s not terribly encouraging. But not all is dark and gloomy. Several Blazers players have shown bright spots over the first 20 games.
As is our tradition during Thanksgiving weekend, we want to honor those performances with our quarter-season awards. We’re going to run down five categories, offer players who might be considered prominent in each, and invite you to comment on your favorites and the reasoning behind your choice.
The next award is a fun one: Most Inspirational Player. Who’s the player pumping up the team every night, despite scoreboards and records?
Three candidates qualify on a spotty, situational basis.
Jusuf Nurkic has had some inspiring stretches when he looked every bit as good as he did before his 2019 leg injury. He’s showing it through production more than rallying emotion and consistency, but it’s there.
CJ McCollum has turned around a couple games with his defense. He’s had more unexpected blocked shots and steals in this quarter-season than he normally has all year. He’s also picking up the offense many nights, with the caveat that he drags it down sometimes too. But when CJ is up and on, the Blazers WIN, which makes him a decent candidate for inspirational effectiveness, though not constancy.
Greg Brown III dunks with style and ferocity. If he got to do that regularly, he’d be a Halley’s Comet in Portland’s nighttime sky.
For various reasons, none of those three candidates can, or should, earn the award at this point. They bring too much variance to the field.
Only one player doesn’t, the same guy who was nominated, but got snubbed, for our Most Improved and Defensive Player awards: Nassir Little. The third-year forward brings a Jerome-Kersey-like intensity to the floor. He punctuates plays with resounding blocks and/or shocking dunks. Every fiber of his frame is geared to making a difference. Whether that ends up good, bad, or indifferent is a product of his age and experience, but the motor never turns off even when the gears are slipping. The Blazers need much more of that. That’s why Nassir Little is going to take this award, and somewhat easily.
Agree? Disagree? Comment below, and stay tuned for the rest of the awards coming soon!