Throughout the four Blazers’ preseason games, they recorded one win and three losses. While the record may seem underwhelming, there were plenty of takeaways – both good and bad – from the games the Blazers played in. When it’s all said and done, the preseason is just a set of tune-up games for NBA teams, so Blazers fans shouldn’t worry too much about the record.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the key points to pay attention to based on the 4 games.
The Blazers have an amazing trio in Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Instead of appreciating the obvious, I’m going to illustrate some of the less noticeable positives found in the Blazers’ preseason games.
One thing all Blazers’ fans can be happy about is the relative health of the team. Outside of Nassir Little, who is away from the team, all players were available for the regular-season opener vs the Utah Jazz. While Derrick Jones Jr. took a scary fall, and Anfernee Simons exited a Blazers’ preseason game, it seems both of them have recovered and are ready to contribute to the team. This is a much-needed break from injuries, which plagued the Blazers last season and through the bubble.
Given how Harry Giles performed in the preseason, signing him to a minimum contract seems like an absolute steal. While he didn’t get the minutes to shine against the Nuggets, Giles recorded monster double-doubles against the Kings and showcased his passing and defensive potential. During the Blazers’ preseason games against the Kings, he dropped 18 points and 14 boards in the first game, and 19 points and 13 boards the next.
A Shored Up Defense
The Blazers brought in Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., and Harry Giles for defensive purposes over the offseason, and all 3 have looked great on that end in the Blazers’ preseason games. With Nurkic healthy and Zach Collins nearing return, the Blazers look to be a threat on both sides of the ball. Carmelo Anthony showed improved defensive awareness in the bubble and preseason, and Rodney Hood should be able to at least contribute on that end.
Gary Trent Jr.
Gary Trent Jr. has continued his progression as a 3&D beast in the Blazers’ preseason. He’s a sniper from deep and provides great spacing for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. He’s shown tenacity on defense and will be a pest for years to come. Most importantly, he showed some more courage in handling the ball and creating his own looks. If GTJ can add a consistent midrange pull up to his arsenal, the Blazers will be that much better because of it.
6th Man Melo
Carmelo Anthony came back to the Blazers and accepted a surprising role: The first man off the bench. Melo showed that he can be an offensive spark for the Blazers off the bench and that he’ll be able to contribute in a major way to the Blazers’ success this year.
Hood is Back
Regardless of how Rodney Hood plays, everyone should feel happy to see the man back on the court. Last season, Hood, unfortunately, tore his Achilles tendon, causing him to miss most of the season. While he saw limited minutes in the Blazers’ preseason, he looked confident and happy to be back on an NBA court. Most notably, Hood seems to have improved as a passer, as he made many good reads and racked up solid assists during his minutes.
As with any team, the Blazers showed that there’s always room for improvement.
The Blazers did not look very consistent in the preseason. Hopefully, it’s just rust, but it is something to watch out for. The players’ offense looked streaky at times, and the defense was not always synced up. While Portland has something going on in terms of defense, they can’t afford to collapse in terms of effort and discipline like they did in the first game against the Nuggets.
C.J. McCollum: Rust or Real Issues?
In the Blazers’ preseason, McCollum looked very subpar on the defensive end. He moved slow, lost his man, and failed to rotate and stay in front of guys frequently. On the other end, he settled for many contested jumpers early in the shot clock. The Blazers can’t succeed with McCollum not doing his part next to Lillard, and it is up to him to stay disciplined and make a positive impact during the regular season.
I was hoping that the revamped roster would allow Stotts to run more schemes than high screen pick-and-roll during the Blazers’ Preseason. However, it seems that the Blazers are continuing to run an iso-heavy offense with limited off-ball movement and passing during many plays. It works to the detriment of the team’s success, and more needs to be done to run efficient offensive plays. As for the defense, the confusion can be attributed to rust and feeling out the strengths and weaknesses of new teammates, but Stotts needs to emphasize defensive consistency and make proper adjustments to avoid bad matchups.
What Can We Expect for The Regular Season?
The Blazers will likely perform well in the regular season and finish top 5 in the Western Conference, fueling a budding Damian Lillard MVP case. However, it seems that the Blazers’ defensive discipline and adjustment may be exposed at times, and their iso-heavy offense may leave them dead on their feet when players try to do too much or have off nights.