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Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Break report card

The Portland Trail Blazers are in the middle of what looks like another playoff bound season as we start to get close to the All-Star break checkpoint. What’s been driving their success? How is player development coming along? What teams do the Blazers perform best against? Who should the Blazers hope for in the first round?

Let’s first statistically compare where the Blazers were at this point last year compared to now.

2017-18 record: 29-22 (55.7%)

STRENGTHS (team league ranks)

  • 3rd in 3pt %
  • 3rd in FT%
  • 7th in defensive rebounding, 12th in total rebounds
  • 6th in blocks

WEAKNESSES (team league ranks):

  • Despite 3rd in 3pt%, 18th in attempts.
  • 26th in 2pt %
  • Despite 3rd in FT%, 20th in attempts
  • Last in the league in assists
  • 27th in steals
  • 20th in turnovers

Analysis: The Trail Blazers simply did not have enough weapons in the paint to balance their offensive perimeter strengths in Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum. As a result, the offense struggled. The team ranked 20th in turnovers despite having two primary ball handlers in CJ and Dame. The team also could not convert their high number of 2pt conversions. There was clearly not enough interior offensive pressure and the defense could closely contest mid-range jumpers off Terry Stotts designed sets, which they took a lot (9th in league). As shown by the 20th ranking in free-throw attempts, the guards also had a hard time getting to the rim. Defensively, they did a great job of controlling the game flow by not allowing 2nd chance points and blocking shots but couldn’t generate enough pressure on opposing teams passing lanes and on ball defense.

The Blazers recognized their deficiencies last season and traded Mason Plumlee for C Jusif Nurkic from the Nuggets at the trade deadline. Nurkic brought the much-needed interior presence the Blazers needed and really made the offense flow.

2018-19 record: 31-20 (60.8%)

STRENGTHS (team league ranks)

  • 6th in FGM, 3rd in FGA
  • 9th in 3PM, 2PM
  • 2nd in FT%, 13th in attempts
  • 5th in ORB, 1st in TRB

WEAKNESSES (team league ranks)

  • Steals (26th/game)
  • Assists (21st/game)
  • 2pt % (18th)

Analysis: While Jusif Nurkic has really opened up the Blazers opportunities in the offense and ability to get to the rim (as evidence by their improved FT attempts, lower turnovers and offensive rebounds), they still rely heavily on isolation sets to get their primary scoring options open. While they have improved on the number of turnovers they commit, they need better on-ball pressure to generate more blocks and steals. In a nutshell, while the offense has improved and rebounding remains their biggest strength, the Blazers must improve defensively on the perimeter and find ways to generate more interior points.

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