NBA Team Reports: Portland Trailblazers

NBA Team Reports: Portland Trailblazers
Dec 26, 2006, 12:18 pm
If there’s one thing that the Portland Trailblazers can bank on for the future, it is that Brandon Roy will be an impact player when healthy. Roy put up 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists one game removed from his return from a leg injury that kept him out of action for nearly a month. While the rest of the team’s has played to a 12-15 record without for all but seven games, Roy’s presence brings an entirely new dimension to their rotation.

Some of the other young players on the Portland roster have shown some marked changes in their production in Roy’s absence. While a lot of these changes can be attributed simply to minutes, there are things we can take away regarding LaMarcus Aldridge, Jarret Jack, and Travis Outlaw.

Note: The number in parentheses indicates the change between the player’s cumulative statistical averages between 14 and 27 total games.

Brandon Roy
28.7 (+1.5) Minutes, 11.8 (+0.2) Points, 3.9 (-0.5) Assists, 3.9 (+1.1) Rebounds, 42% (+4%) FG

Hampered by a left heel injury, Brandon Roy has sat out 20 of the Trailblazers’ 27 total games. While one would expect Roy to be brought back slowly, Nate McMillan allowed Roy to log extended minutes in his second game back. While most players would struggle to work their way back into playing shape, Roy looked surprisingly crisp in both of games he has played coming off of his injury. His offensive game has looked especially good. He showed off his versatility to the tune of a near triple-double in a 101-100 loss to the Toronto Raptors on December 22nd.

While we won’t be able to make any definitive conclusions about Roy’s game until we’ve seen more of him, he displayed the ability to stuff the stat sheet against the Raptors. He used his crossover effectively to attack the basket, and looked particularly good shooting the ball. He went 5 of 10 from the field, and a perfect 6 of 6 from the line, while tallying 10 rebounds and 8 assists in roughly 40 minutes of action off the bench. That would be a good stat line for most established veteran players coming off of injuries, so the fact Roy has bounced back so quickly is a testament to his how well-developed his game is already.

One of the things that Roy has really developed is a knack for taking contact and getting to the line. Roy finishes strong at the basket, and his ability to knock down free-throws makes him an especially efficient scorer when he is attacking the basket. When he gets in the lane, he shields the ball like a veteran, and takes good angles when attacking the glass. These two tactics allow him to finish with contact, and draw fouls, both of which are talents that most rookies don’t have. We’ll take a much more in depth look into Roy’s game next time, but it has already become clear that he’s developing the court savvy of a veteran.

LaMarcus Aldridge
19.1 (-7.0) Minutes, 6.7 (-3.1) Points, 4.2 (-1.4) Rebounds, .9 Blocks, 52% (-6%) FG

After coming back strong from early injuries, Aldridge was really stringing together some solid performances in the early going. Don’t let his stat line fool you, he has still been playing well, but his minutes have been limited partially due to the return of Joel Przybilla to Portland’s starting lineup. He’s continued to finish consistently around the basket, and has shown marked improvement from the free-throw line over the past month. His diverse array of post moves allowed him to score in bunches when he is on the floor, but the limited minutes he has received recently has limited his touches as well as his effectiveness.

As Aldridge’s minutes have decreased, so too has his field goal percentage. While Aldridge is by no means a streak scorer, he does play better when he has time to adjust to the rhythm of the game. He is still getting acclimated with the NBA game, and can’t be expected to provide instant offense just yet. One positive thing Aldridge has displayed in over the past few games is his tendency to not force things. He doesn’t come into the game and start firing away. Much like he does on the defense end, he lets things come to him, and doesn’t try to do things that he isn’t comfortable with.

It will be interesting to see how much Aldridge sees the floor now that Nate McMillan has a full compliment of post players at his disposal. Raef LaFrentz hasn’t seen consistent minutes, but Jamal Magloire has played well in spurts and Joel Pryzbilla is a lock to start at the center position. We’ll monitor Aldridge’s minutes as the season goes on in order to see if we can find a legitimate reason for him not seeing the floor.

Sergio Rodríguez
9.8 (-1.7) Minutes, 2.2 (+0.7) Points, 3.1 (-0.3) Assists, .4 (-0.1) Steals, 39% (+14%) FG

It will be interesting to see how the return of Brandon Roy impacts Rodrìguez’s playing time. He has continued to look good in a backup role behind Jarret Jack, but McMillan may be looking to work Roy back into playing shape by giving some of the minutes at the point that Rodríguez would normally play. The return of Dan Dickau won’t impact Rodrìguez’s minutes positively either. Dickau’s ability to knock down the three, coupled with Rodríguez’s ability to create shots for others gives Portland a lot of diversity at the backup point guard spot.

Fortunately for Rodríguez, Dickau’s minutes have been sporadic, so it appears that he will be the more frequent recipient of both rotation and garbage minutes behind Jack. Over the past few games, Rodríguez has continued to show the playmaking ability that made him a first round pick, but has also looked a little bit more confident shooting the ball. While he may never light up the scoreboard with his shooting, it is imperative that he continue to improve his stroke if he wants to see his minutes increase. Rodríguez is already a viable option at the backup point guard spot due to his unique ability to make plays, but he would see more quality minutes if develops a reliable jump shot.

Jarrett Jack
35.7 (+0.6) Minutes, 13.2 (+1.3) Points, 5.9 (-0.1) Assists, 1.3 (-0.1) Steals, 47% (-2%) FG

With Brandon Roy out, Jack has had the opportunity to showcase his skills in the backcourt, and to an extent, he has seized the opportunity. While he hasn’t really stepped up his offensive game to a great extent, the way in which he has been scoring has been especially encouraging.

During the month of December, Jack has shown the ability to step out and knock down the three-point shot at a much more intimidating clip than he did early in the season. He hasn’t hesitated to fire away when left open, and the results have been largely positive. While his 33% three point percentage in December may not seem all that impressive in comparison to many of the other starting point guards in the league, you have to remember that Jack shot a meager 19% in November. These improvements in his shooting have also led to improved efficiency from mid-range.

While this statistical improvement is interesting, you have to remember that Jack only attempts a couple of three-pointers each game. The important thing that we can conclude from this improvement is that Jack is not only working on his shot, but that his confidence in it is increasing. Jack has likely realized that improving his jump shot is the only way for him to truly take his game to another level. He has great size for a point guard, and doesn’t have a lot of trouble getting his shot off over defenders. As he becomes more comfortable shooting from long range, his scoring numbers should increase precipitously.

There haven’t been a lot of noticeable changes in Jack’s game over the past month. He still plays solid defense and his assist to turnover ratio has been essentially constant. Given Jack’s increased confidence in his shot, it will be interesting to see how he meshes with Brandon Roy in Portland’s backcourt. He and Roy could quickly become one of the league’s most intimidating guard duos if the pair can increase their shooting consistency.

Martell Webster
21.9 Minutes, 7.5 (+0.7) Points, 2.5 (+0.3) Rebounds, 41% (+1%) FG

Webster has looked amazing in stretches, but is often inconsistent with what he brings to the table. He has continued to show flashes of brilliance, and this has shown up in his numbers across the board. One particular game provided an especially insightful look into the player Webster has the potential to become.

In a 93-83 win over the Raptors on December 10th, Webster put up 22 points and 8 rebounds in only 29 minutes played. What these numbers don’t show, is the intensity and confidence Webster displayed on the offensive end. He appeared to be in attack mode not only from the perimeter, but also off the dribble. He got to the line a season-high seven times, finishing all seven attempts. On the defensive end, Webster showed that there is more to his game than just his ability to put points on the board, going after rebounds and playing solid defense. One specific thing Webster did during this game that he doesn’t do consistently was work hard off the ball offensively. He used screens well, and was in constant motion when the ball wasn’t in his hands. When his level of activity increases like it did in this game, he is a much better player overall.

While this game hasn’t been the norm for Webster, he is capable of putting up great scoring numbers. He lacks consistency, but the confidence and skills are there. Webster will continue to get the minutes he needs to develop, but it will be his decision in the long-run how good he becomes. With Brandon Roy returning, Webster will probably be relegated to coming off the bench, but he is a definitely a player to keep an eye on.

Stephen Graham
9.4 (-3.4) Minutes, 2.9 (-0.7) Points, 1.3 (-0.2) Rebounds, 40% (-3%) FG

Graham hasn’t seen a lot of minutes recently with most of Portland’s players now able to play, and he probably won’t be seeing minutes at all barring injuries. Graham is one of those players that earns a roster spot with hard work, and can step in when circumstances permit. We definitely haven’t seen the last of Graham.

Travis Outlaw
25.3 (+1.3) Minutes, 10.2 (+0.8) Points, 3.9 (+0.1) Rebounds, 47% (+1%) FG

With Brandon Roy out of the lineup, Travis Outlaw has had the opportunity to put his skills on display. He hasn’t shown a great deal of development in terms of skill, but has shown the ability to produce consistently when his minutes increase. One thing that Outlaw has seen a little more success with is his jump shot.

Over the past month, Outlaw’s form has appeared more consistent, and this improvement has been apparent in both his field goal and free-throw percentages. While his shot selection is still questionable at times, it has obviously improved. He has been letting the game come to him, and playing off of his teammates extremely well. His improved efficiency should lead to him receiving even more minutes as the season progresses.

Outlaw is definitely a player to monitor due to his amazing athleticism. As the rest of his game comes together, he could certainly be a threat to crack Portland’s starting lineup in the future.

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