Trail Blazers: Filling the Aminu Void
How are the Trail Blazers filling the void left behind by Al-Farouq Aminu’s injury?
The Trail Blazers’ starting power forward, Al-Farouq Aminu, came out of the game against the Phoenix Suns with an apparent calf injury. Originally thought to be day-to-day, coach Terry Stotts has said that Aminu will miss around two weeks and will be reevaluated then.
With Aminu unable to suit up and contribute the Trail Blazers will be forced to pick up the pieces and fill the void at power forward. Portland started Noah Volneh – who played 26 minutes – in what would quickly become a blowout at the hands of the Los Angles Clippers. Because of the blowout we did not get a real good look at what Vonleh in the starting unit would look like.
Meyers Leonard was given the starting nod since the disaster agains the Clippers, and he has had a positive impact on the court. More importantly, both of those games resulted in victories for Portland.
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As the absence of Aminu goes on, we will likely see Stotts continue to tinker with the starting lineup and rotation to best cover the hole left behind by Aminu. While I believe Stotts will fill the void by committee rather than commit to one player, it is Vonleh who should get a longer audition with the starters this year.
Another player that is likely to pick up extra minutes is Ed Davis. Davis has seen a decrease in his minutes this year compared to last year, which is likely a direct result of his limited game. Davis is a rebounding specialist who does a great job cleaning up the offensive boards and providing the Blazers valuable second chance points. While Davis is a valuable contributor to the team, he has serious limitations. He is dependent on second chance opportunities for offense, and he has struggled to stay out of foul trouble.
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Leonard is the clear candidate to play significantly more minutes with there being a temporary opening at power forward. The problem with playing Leonard significant minutes with the starting lineup is the defensive and rebounding problems that it creates. He is nowhere near the versatile defender that we have come to know Aminu to be. Portland is currently the 27th ranked team in defensive efficiency allowing, 111.08 points per 100 possessions (Basketball-Reference.com). Inserting Leonard into the lineup will do very little to alter those numbers.
This leaves Vonleh, who I believe is the best fit to pick up the slack. Vonleh is still young and raw in some aspects, but Noah has shown increased confidence this season and has been playing well for the most part when given the chance. In addition to the fact that he is a stronger and more versatile defender than Leonard, he has also been rebounding better. Aminu is currently the Trail Blazers leading rebounder and the fact that Vonleh leads the team in rebounds per 36 minutes with 10.5, bodes well for him to be the replacement.
It is tough to argue with results though. If the Blazers keep winning with Leonard in the lineup – it could lead to Stotts finding a bigger role for him when Aminu returns.