Through three pre-season games, the Blazers have averaged 20.3 turnovers per game. This is, to be succinct, far too many. Head Coach Terry Stotts alluded to this in a recent interview, saying, “The biggest concern right now is still the turnovers. The turnovers have been a problem the first three games.” This is the right attitude, as the problem needs to be met head on.
Before anything else, yes it is the preseason, so concern levels should be relatively low. There has been a rash of injuries, lineups are still getting figured out, rust is being shaken off, and legs are just starting to get into game shape. The product we are seeing during the preseason will be nowhere near what we will see during the regular season.
With that being said, this rate of turnovers should still not be happening. It is indicative of sloppy play, and rests more on the shoulders of the Blazers than their opponents. Their opponents, in comparison, have averaged only 15.6 turnovers a game, nearly five fewer. Every team is going through the same beginning of the season growing pains, so there are no excuses for this number to be quite so high.
For comparison, the Houston Rockets led the league in turnovers last season, with 16.4 a game – well below where the Blazers currently are. The Knicks, on the other end of the spectrum, only averaged 12 per game last season. Obviously the Blazers will not continue to turn the ball over at such an astronomically high rate, but this is a problem that must be noticed and diligently fixed. Through three games it is apparent that it is an issue, which is why I am glad to see Stotts already addressing it.
Against the Jazz, every single starter coughed the rock up at least twice, so this isn’t even a case of usual benchwarmers getting caught in the spotlight. The veterans especially should be more cautious with the ball. Even the bench’s would-be spark plug, Mo Williams, contributed to the cause with four. This is what is perhaps most worrying – it is a team-wide problem, which carries its own set of concerns. There is perhaps no truer adage than, “You practice like you play,” and if the attitude towards turnovers among the whole team has become so nonchalant, the ramifications could stretch into the season.
In practical terms, turnovers present their own share of problems. Right off the bat, turnovers often lead to fast break opportunities for the other team, which are converted at a high rate. Twenty turnovers a game are just potential twenty fast breaks waiting to happen, especially since after a turnover players are poorly positioned to play defense. They also rob the Blazers of a chance to score – rather than getting a shot off (even a low percentage shot), and theys are guaranteed to end up with nothing to show for the entire possession.
Defenses certainly impact turnovers, so it is not entirely the Blazers’ fault. However, even the vaunted 2007-2008 Celtics defense only forced opponents into 16 turnovers a game. Thus far the Blazers are quite frequently just shooting themselves in the foot, especially since preseason games full of second stringers are nowhere near the level of an elite defense.
Again, it’s just the preseason. This is, fortunately, the time for such kinks to get worked out. Personally, I am not yet overly concerned, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on as the preseason starts to wind down and the regular season looms.