Since having one of the best starts to a season in franchise history, the Portland Trail Blazers have been mediocre; literally. After starting 25-7, they have since gone 12-11. Coming into last night’s home game against the lowly Utah Jazz, the Blazers were losers of three straight. So that leaves answers needed to the question of why such a drop off for a team with arguably two of the top 10, if not 15, players in the NBA.
Like most of the jump-shot-happy teams at really any level of basketball, they are streaky. Shooters get hot, shooters get cold and those trends can last for games and weeks at a time. Take last night for example. They started 1-10 from behind the three point line but finished the game going 7-20. Shooting can carry teams through the playoffs. Just ask last year’s Golden State Warriors, or the 2010-11 championship winning, Dirk Nowitzki lead, Dallas Mavericks. But, that’s the least of the Blazers’ worries this year.
Outside of their starting five, they only have four guys who play over 10 minutes a game. One of them, Thomas Robinson, only plays 11. Besides those first four off the bench, Portland has three other bench players who play five minutes, at most, per game. Will Barton, who only averages just under five MPG, had to play 18 tonight, partly due to the groin injury of LaMarcus Aldridge. Because of that injury, the unheard of Victor Claver (three MPG) got to play a whopping 10 minutes last night!
Portland has a low MPG for its bench compared to other teams, but the bench scoring (PPG) is near abysmal. Leading bench scorer, Mo Williams averages a respectable 9.2 PPG. Next best off the bench, rookie C.J. McCollum, comes in at only 6.7 PPG. If it weren’t for All-Star Damian Lillard bailing the whole team out in the late third quarter and all of the fourth, factors like lack of bench production would have lost the Blazers last night’s game to the now 19-35 Jazz.
In fact, in some rotations, the Blazers have the 6-foot-9 Robinson playing the center position. With that lineup they become small AND unable to score. Yes, they average a league best 107.9 PPG as a team, but like I said, are streaky, and also allow 103.9 PPG–good for the 27th worst scoring defense. The Blazers play horrible defense, their bench can’t score consistently and they didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline to correct any of this. Good luck making a deep run in an already loaded Western Conference, Portland.