Jan 29, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and guard C.J. McCollum (3) look on against the Charlotte Hornets during the fourth quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
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After a disappointing start to the 2016-17 NBA season, we explore what isn’t working for the Portland Trail Blazers this year.
Going into the 2016-17 NBA season, the Portland Trail Blazers had high hopes as they aimed to capitalize on the success they had in the Western Conference the past three seasons.
Lead by dynamic duo Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum, as well as a group of high energy players, the Blazers were a popular pick to be one of the surprise teams this season.
With nearly the first quarter of the season in the books, the Portland Trail Blazers sit at a mediocre 8-9; no where they want to be or where they need to be if they want to be viewed as contenders in the Western Conference.
Still, early in the season, the question is out there, what is wrong with the Portland Trail Blazers?
Oct 7, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) shoots the ball against Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) in the second half at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Everyone knows that the Portland Trail Blazers offense runs through Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, rightfully so as the duo puts up big numbers on the offensive end to be the reason behind Portland’s victories.
No team in the NBA rely more on a combo than the Blazers and it shows with Dame and CJ scoring 46 percent of the team’s points.
Portland does rank in the top 10 in all shooting categories, however a third scoring option in Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee, Evan Turner or Mo Harkless would be much welcomed.
Nov 4, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Mason Plumlee (24) looks to shoot as Dallas Mavericks guard Justin Anderson (1) defends during the second half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Portland is ranked 29th in total rebounds, finding themselves out-rebounded over five boards per game. Digger deeper, Portland allows nearly 12 offensive rebounds per game compared to their nine offensive boards per game.
The Blazers rank in the bottom seven of all defensive categories (more on that later).
Al-Farouq Aminu leads the team in rebounds, at only 6.6 per game, but has missed half the games this season due to injury. Big men Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis and Meyers Leonard, along with Mo Harkless, need to step up on the glass in order to get second shot chances or reduce that of the opponents.
The rebounding has been better over the past few games, with Ed Davis being inserted into the starting lineup, and it can only go up.
Nov 4, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) drives to the basket against Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu (8) during the first half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Portland’s defense is horrendous. No doubt about it, the Blazers are the worst defensive team in the league. Allowing 113.4 points per game along with a defensive rating of 109.7 ranks them dead last in the league in both categories.
As Damian Lillard says it best, “We kind of suck right now”
Going into the season, the Portland Trail Blazers aimed to improve on their 20th rank defensive efficiency, but they have taken a clear step backwards. Portland has allowed at least 100 points in all but two games this season, as well as allowing over 110 points in 11 games.
Vulnerable on the pick-and-roll, back door cuts and giving up three’s nightly are major areas of concern for this squad.
Lillard and McCollum were never considered defensive gems coming into the league, but the two need to improve quickly on the perimeter.
The return of Aminu and the debut of Festus Ezeli should help.
Offenses in the Western Conference are potent and if no adjustments are made it might end up being a disappointing end to a once bright season.