The Portland Trail Blazers have started their 2023-24 regular season 2-3. Drama has been high as the team dropped their first three games before winning two straight. Night to night, you’re not sure exactly which Trail Blazers you’re going to get. Thus runs the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Watching so far I’d say you did a pretty good job with your preseason predictions. You called alot of things right and helped me see what to look for as I watch. But even you can’t call it all, so I want to know what has surprised you so far. Even though we’ve only played 4 [ed. now 5] games what has shocked you if anything?
The thing that’s surprised me the most is how Shaedon Sharpe has committed to the non-scoring areas of his game. The team needs more rebounding. He’s right there, trying to wrest caroms from his friends and opponents. His defense has been as good as anyone’s at the point of attack. His passing game has been as good as possible, given the general discombobulation of a squad getting to know each other (and in many cases the NBA game in general). His turnovers are high but that’s not surprising for the exact same reason. Heck, the guy’s even shooting 90% at the foul line.
The technical and effort improvement over the summer is evident in Sharpe’s game. He’s not perfect, but he’s markedly better than I thought he might be.
As far as negative surprise, a few days ago I would have said how the Blazers have failed to use or inspire Deandre Ayton. That appears to be turning around now, so I’m going to go with the three-point issue.
We knew Portland lacked shooting this year compared to past incarnations, but I don’t think anybody anticipated the team sustaining a 28.5% aggregate three-point percentage. Reserve guards Malcolm Brogdon and Matisse Thybulle are the only Portland players shooting the long ball well. Everyone else is below average or doesn’t have enough attempts to matter.
I also expected the Blazers to be better defending the three-point shot. Their overall percentage of 34.5% allowed isn’t bad, a little on the high side of average. But they’ve only caught up to shooters the last couple games. Before that they were kind of just depending on opponents to miss. For a team this quick and athletic, that seems like a major faux pas.
Portland hasn’t been good defending in the paint or in transition. They’re giving up a lot of easy points already. Letting opponents loose at the arc is a weakness too far for me, especially when the Blazers aren’t making it up with their own shooting.
I want to throw this question to you too, Blazer’s Edge Readers. What have you found most surprising so far, even with this small sample size? Share in the comment section below.
You can also send your Mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to answer as many as we can!