Portland Trail Blazers Turning A Corner
Early this season, the Portland Trail Blazers were struggling and looked like they would be an afterthought in the Western Conference. But their recent form has been the best in the NBA, to the point that many have faith in the team to be legitimate contenders to make a deep playoff run in the Western Conference this year. So what has caused the Portland Trail Blazers to make such tremendous strides forward?
Portland Trail Blazers Guards
The biggest key to the success of the Portland Trail Blazers has been the play of its guards, who may be one of the best guard groups in the NBA. Portland’s guards are led by starters Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum, both of whom have the ability to score in so many ways that opposing defenses simply haven’t known what to do with them. Their ability to shoot from the outside makes defenders play them closely, while their ability to drive to the basket makes defenders pay for doing so.
In addition to the ability of Lillard and McCollum to score in a variety of ways, they are both very good defensive guards, in that they are both able to stay in front of their defensive assignments and force turnovers when the opportunity presents itself. In a Western Conference loaded with great guards who can get you out of position and score when they do, this is a huge bonus for any team to have.
Portland Trail Blazers Ball Movement
It’s amazing, but just about every player on the Portland Trail Blazers has the ability to move the ball proficiently. This sets them up with a massive number of three point shooting opportunities, as not even NBA defenses can defend ball movement as crisp and clean as Portland’s has been over the last few weeks. And, of course, that ball movement wouldn’t mean anything if Portland’s shooters weren’t able to convert on those long distance shots, but they have been making shots with great consistency.
Versatile Big Men
Teams like the Houston Rockets have proven that having a traditional center isn’t always a great thing anymore, as players that big can’t do as many things well as the smaller, more versatile bigs that have flourished in today’s NBA. The Portland Trail Blazers, meanwhile, are proof that those versatile big men are the best thing for teams to have.
Proof of this is in the fact that the Portland Trail Blazers let center Robin Lopez go after last season, opting to replace him inside with players like Mason Plumlee, who are able to rebound and dunk, but can also step out and hit jump shots to draw opposing big men out of the painted area. This allows the Trail Blazers’ guards to get to the paint more frequently without the same resistance that they would face if Plumlee was more of a block to block big man.
Right now, the Portland Trail Blazers are in the top six in the Western Conference, but if they can keep playing the way they have, there is no reason to believe that they can’t compete for a top five spot and give the rest of the top five teams in the conference a lot of trouble when playoff time comes around.
By: Jason M. Sanin