The 2019-20 NBA season resumes in two weeks in Orlando, Florida, with 22 teams competing for the 2020 NBA playoffs and a chance for the championship. This will be the strangest end of a season the league has ever seen. Will the Portland Trail Blazers be ready to take advantage of the circumstances and step over a playoff seed? If so, what will they ride? These are the themes of Blazer’s current Mailbag Edge.
New season. New goals? It’s a strange situation with the 8 games and a long rest and no home plans and unbalanced programs. Should I go on? How do you think the game changes when we restart the games and how will the changes affect the Blazers?
It will be a wild ride. Eight games of the regular season should allow the teams to settle, but you don’t really know how the teams will perform until they have played 25-30 times in a normal year. At that point, they will already be in the final phase of the conference. Expect a fair amount of randomness.
The point is underlined at the moment as half of the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets rotations are not displayed, nor explicitly because of positive COVID tests or for unknown reasons. We are not talking about the ninth man, but about being legitimate. This reminds us that each team is facing a dramatic change. It will be a subtext throughout the process.
Again, to no avail, I will argue that attendance should have been limited to the top four teams in each conference, at most. Or they would have had to set up a system where fewer teams were to remain on campus at the same time and start quarantine on the market for each franchise as their travel time to Orlando approached. Trying to preserve financial normality, the NBA chose all the matches and teams it could reasonably do. Playing with abnormal rosters, and therefore matchups, will prove one of the costs of that decision.
However, some familiar aspects of the game should translate into Orlando seamlessly. Think of the infamous “things that can’t be taught”. Great players will still be great. Good rebound teams should navigate the reboot pending domination on the scoreboards. While rare today, players who can score with compact post moves will soon thrive. Insulation markers with dimensions should also be fine. Seeks an early return to basketball matchup from 10-15 years ago. If a player scores because he is two inches taller and 15 kilos heavier than most defenders, he should have many opportunities. Teams with three-point shooters around that player will have an even greater advantage than usual.
Teams with complex layouts or a delicate balancing of lists will likely take longer to show up. If the Lakers have not resolved their LeBron James-Anthony Davis order or if the Bucks have not decided that Giannis Antetokounmpo is the man, resolve the fact that Orlando may be more difficult than it would have been in a normal playoff progression. . The Houston Rockets are an interesting case, with a relatively simple system but the competition between two stars in Russell Westbrook and James Harden. I saw them do well outside the gate, then disappear when the opposition becomes more rigid.
Trail Blazers are an interesting case, a real joker. They now have a more complete list than they do during the regular season. The return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins gives them the size, exactly what you want to go on reboot. They also have isolation score machines in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum (possibly even Carmelo Anthony, depending on the day). There is absolutely no doubt about who the leader is. All these things speak well of their chances of a quick reboot.
Trevor Ariza sitting outside isn’t great, but Portland could be great with Anthony or small with Gary Trent Jr. at three. Or they could simply mask the position, hoping that the defense of Nassir Little or Wenyen Gabriel would have been enough to carry them forward. Forward positions are the main concern, but in the beginning they were not moving forward.
Going back to Nurkic and Collins … their size could balance a potential problem for Portland: reliance on the volume score. Portland recorded a 2.1 point deficit in the three-point score this year and a 1.5 point deficit in the points on the foul line. They compensated, at least in part, with a margin of +2.0 on two-point shots. They reached that limit by raising more total attempts than their opponents: 90.9 per game, 6th in the championship. This is the crux with their high scoring offensive remains.
Portland may be able to spin freely in the first eight games, but shooting attempts become more expensive in the post-season game. If the Blazers end up making the playoffs, the opponents will insert themselves and remove their extra attempts. At that point, the percentages will weigh more than the total number of hits. They are 4th in the championship with precision in three points, but their most precise shooters are out or in rotation. They rank 15th in the overall percentage of goals on the pitch. Their free throw volume does not compensate for it.
The return of Nurkic and Collins could help the situation. Greater defense could reduce the score deficit, reducing the need for those extra throws. Great men become an advantage when the game slows down. Bouncing equals ball possession and ball possession equals control. If the Blazers plan to thrive with their “batch” system, control of the ball will become critical. Checking the glass on both ends is an easy way to hide Portland’s shortcomings and your opponent’s perks.
We are talking about margins here, not absolutes. Success will be determined as usual: the team with the most talents on the field will usually win.
The variable of who plays and who does not in Orlando will be the basis on which everything else rests. If all teams come up with a complete list, the variables will mean less. Give or take the infamous “team that heats up at the right time”, we will see results similar to those of October-March. If health and participation threw a key into the system, any team could find the door open in a series of playoffs that they would otherwise have lost. For teams who expected to contend anyway, this is a great curse. For teams hoping to step into the door, it’s an opportunity.
Thanks for the question! You can send them together with firstname.lastname@example.org and we will light the embers of the Mailbag again!
—Dave (email@example.com / @DaveDeckard / @blazersedge)