January 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Will Barton (5) controls the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford (11) and power forward Lamar Odom (7) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Which Blazers Will Slip Through The Cracks?

Unless the NBA suddenly decides to embrace 10 minute quarters as the Europeans have, basketball games will remain 48 minutes long this season. And unless the NBA decides to really take a leap, each team will only play five players at any given time— Carlisle hoodwinkery not withstanding. This means that there are 240 minutes of regulation play available to each roster (5 positions X 48 minutes). For a 15 man roster, that’s 16 minutes of play per communist, but basketball is, for the most part, void of Marxism.

The best players will get the most minutes. If you’re reading this, you probably saw the Blazers prove this by running their starters into the ground last season. Beneath the dust layers compressed by 40 minutes of trampling footsteps were guys like Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt struggling to play 10 minutes off the bench. Letting them flounder about was an easy decision because they couldn’t compete at a level worth investing in (sorry guys), but now things are not so simple.

The Blazers went from the absolute shallowest to one of the deepest teams in the league over the summer, but not everyone will see the court each night—even with the starter minutes scaled back. So who are going to be the odd men out? If the starters are cut all the way down to an average of 29 minutes per game like last year’s Clippers (another deep team), that still leaves just 145 available minutes between the 10 remaining players.

Not only that, but if we examine the Blazers’ depth chart, we can see that some positions are more clogged than others:

PG: Damian Lillard | Mo Williams | Earl Watson
SG: Wesley Matthews | CJ McCollum | Allen Crabbe | Will Barton
SF: Nicolas Batum | Dorell Wright | Victor Claver
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge | Thomas Robinson
C: Robin Lopez |Meyers Leonard | Joel Freeland

So let’s break this down a little bit, one position at a time. As a minor note, minutes per game (MPG) is calculated based on how many minutes a player spent on the court in games which they played. So a player that plays in only two games for a total of 10 minutes will average 5 MPG for the season. That would be why those of you checking my math will find that it exceeds the previously mentioned 240 minutes.

-Point Guard-

Starter: Damian Lillard
Previous MPG: 38.6 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 33 minutes
Summary: Although Lillard is looking forward to playing fewer minutes after leading the league in minutes played last season, he will still draw the bulk of the court time at point guard.

Reserve: Mo Williams
Previous MPG: 30.8 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 24 minutes
Summary: Williams will likely take the rest of the point guard minutes unless coach Stotts decides to play McCollum at the point. Either way, both players are likely to spend time at both positions.

Odd man out: Earl Watson
Previous MPG: 17.3 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 9 minutes
Summary: Watson is serviceable, but also 34 years old. He’s intended to be more of a player coach than anything else, but he’ll still collect garbage time minutes and fill in when others are fatigued.

-Shooting Guard-

Starter: Wesley Matthews
Previous MPG: 34.8 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 28 minutes
Summary: Matthews has never played fewer than 33 minutes per game in Portland, but the Blazers are overflowing with guards this year and he will have to sacrifice some time so they can develop McCollum.

Reserve: CJ McCollum
Previous MPG: N/A
Anticipated MPG: 19 minutes
Summary: McCollum will likely split time between point guard and shooting guard, but the Blazers will use him as much as possible off the bench. The 10th pick of the NBA draft is a valuable investment.

Odd man out #1: Will Barton
Previous MPG: 12.2 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 11 minutes
Summary: Barton’s services will not be required on a nightly basis, but he will find minutes here and there, especially when injuries arrive like death and taxes.

Odd man out #2: Allen Crabbe
Previous MPG: N/A
Anticipated MPG: 13 minutes
Summary: Crabbe is in the same boat as Barton, but could potentially see minutes bleed over into small forward position for better or worse.

-Small Forward-

Starter: Nicolas Batum
Previous MPG: 38.5 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 29 minutes
Summary: Batum has the most notable consistency issues, as well as some nagging injuries. He will likely play big minutes, but be rested often for his own good.

Reserve: Dorell Wright
Previous MPG: 22.6 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 19 minutes
Summary: Coming off the bench for Philadelphia last season, Wright played 22.6 minutes per game, but that squad was riddled with injury. He will play less while spacing the floor for Portland.

Odd man out: Victor Claver
Previous MPG: 16.6 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 12 minutes
Summary: Claver has made improvements, but will probably not see a lot of court time. He will have the opportunity to slide in at power forward from time to time, however.

-Power Forward-

Starter: LaMarcus Aldridge
Previous MPG: 37.7 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 34 minutes
Summary: As the most talented Blazer, Aldridge will play the most minutes this season; especially since he will be placed at the 5 on occasion when the Blazers play small-ball.

Reserve: Thomas Robinson
Previous MPG: 15.1 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 19 minutes
Summary: Robinson will be called upon whenever the Blazers need aggression inside. I’m a big believer in this guy, and I think he’ll earn his time every night.


Starter: Robin Lopez
Previous MPG: 26 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 28 minutes
Summary: Lopez has never played more than 26 minutes per game in his career, partially because of his history of fragility. Portland will rest him often to further develop Meyers Leonard.

Reserve: Meyers Leonard
Previous MPG: 17.5 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 20 minutes
Summary: Leonard (as well as Lillard and Robinson) had his 3rd year option picked up on Monday. The team will allot him his share of court time to prepare him for the future.

Odd man out: Joel Freeland
Previous MPG: 9.4 minutes
Anticipated MPG: 10 minutes
Summary: Joel has worked hard to improve this summer, but there isn’t a lot of room for him. However, the minutes he plays, while small, will likely be more meaningful this year.

Earl Watson, Will Barton, Allen Crabbe, Victor Claver, and Joel Freeland will be the players to slip through the cracks. In fact, there will be nights when some of them don’t play at all. Most teams use an 8 or 9 man rotation, and this leaves the Blazers on the high end of that with 10. It’s amazing that Portland finds themselves in this predicament at all. Hopefully, the pseudo-neglect will not cause any disenfranchisement, but if it does, Portland has plenty of trade fodder to consolidate their talent.

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Tags: Depth Minutes Per Game Portland Trail Blazers

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