After being snuffed out by the Clippers of the NBA’s upper echelon on Monday, the Blazers had the opportunity to right the ship against the Suns—arguably the worst team in the lowest tier. Portland still came away with a loss, but I’m not terribly concerned. The DNP list included starting and backup small forwards Nicolas Batum and Dorell Wright, while LaMarcus Aldridge was limited to only 13 minutes of play. The Blazers aren’t exactly working with a whole team right now.
While, yes, the most injured team in the NBA squared off with the worst team in the NBA for preseason dominance (possibly the most yawn-worthy scenario imaginable) last night’s game held some intrigue. We got to see what Victor Claver, Allen Crabbe, Will Barton, and Thomas Robinson could do against bare-bones competition. I like to think of it as one of those Ducks football games in which a lesser school takes some cash to let Oregon practice their trouncing and see who emerges as the go-to trouncer.
Of course, the Blazers didn’t exactly steamroll the Suns, but we got a good look at the second unit. Here are the stat-lines of those who had to step up for their injured teammates:
Allen Crabbe: 14 points, 0 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 6-11 shooting, 24 minutes
Will Barton: 13 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 5-6 shooting, 26 minutes
Victor Claver: 3 points, 0 assists, 6 rebounds, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 0-4 shooting, 27 minutes
Thomas Robinson: 7 points, 1 assist, 6 rebounds, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 2-4 shooting, 13 minutes
At first glance, it would appear that the guards, Allen Crabbe and Will Barton, were the most successful. This is true, but it should be noted that Thomas Robinson was ejected in the first half for throwing an elbow at Marcin Gortat. There’s no way of knowing if his momentum would fizzle, or if that 7 and 6 would turn into a monster stat-line. The only real disappointment here is Victor Claver, though I’ve been otherwise pleased with his play of late.
Now that we have a reasonable idea what these players can do, I’m curious to see who will have the most lasting impact when (if) the rest of the roster returns to full health. I’ll admit, I had the least amount of faith in the guards, but they’ve shown more than flashes of capability. With McCollum sidelined until his broken foot heals, there will be plenty of time for them to discover a niche role. Still, Claver is the best role player and Robinson has the most upside.
From what you know of this bizarre, injury riddled preseason, which of these players do you think will be able to stay relevant and help Portland the most in the regular season?