Dec 31, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) handles the ball while being defended by Portland Trail Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum (88) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Trail Blazers' inability to defend stars indicates need for change

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In the 2013-14 NBA season, only one player averaged more than 30 points per game (Kevin Durant), so how is it that the Portland Trail Blazers allowed a league-worst 10 opposing players to average that mark in head-to-heads? Although the Trail Blazers’ defense was statistically middling on the whole (17th in defensive rating), they struggled to contain scoring threats that were more than middling, themselves.

Every team allows the occasional scoring outburst by nature of the game, but the frequency with which the Trail Blazers got the rough side of the pineapple last season was downright startling, given the teams one would expect to perform worse. Get your scrolling finger ready, we’re about to take an inclusive look at how Portland stacked up against the rest of the league when it came to keeping the stars at bay.

 

Players that averaged 30+ against each NBA team

 

 

May 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts during game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Thunder 101-99 to tie the series 2-2.Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks: 2
- K. Durant (35.5)
– A. Davis (30.5)

Brooklyn Nets: 1
- T. Evans (33.0)

Boston Celtics: 1
– A. Davis (31.5)

Charlotte Bobcats: 4
– L. James (37.8)
– C. Anthony (35.5)
– K. Durant (31.0)
– S. Curry (30.0)

Chicago Bulls: 3
- R. Anderson (36.0)
– K. Durant (33.5)
– N. Young (31.0)

Cleveland Cavaliers: 4
- J. Harden (32.5)
– D. Lillard (32.0)
– L. James (32.0)
– K. Durant (31.5)

Dallas Mavericks: 5
- L. James (40.5)
– R. Gay (32.3)
– K. Durant (32.0)
– C. Anthony (31.5)
– K. Love (31.0)

Denver Nuggets: 2
– K. Durant (31.3)
– A. Jefferson (30.5)

Detroit Piston: 3
- K. Durant (39.5)
– G. Hayward (32.0)
– D. Wade (30.0)

Golden State Warriors: 5
- K. Durant (33.0)
– J. Harden (33.0)
– R. Westbrook (32.5)
– L. James (31.0)
– K. Love (30.3)

 

 

Feb 22, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts to a three in the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 107-98. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 22, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts to a three in the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 107-98. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets: 5
- C. Anthony (35.0)
– E. Gordon (35.0)
– K. Durant (34.8)
– J. Anderson (33.0)
– D. Nowitzki (31.5)

Indiana Pacers: 5
- K. Durant (37.0)
– D. Lillard (32.0)
– D. Cousins (31.0)
– K. Love (31.0)
– C. Anthony (30.7)

Los Angeles Clippers: 3
- K. Durant (32.5)
– P. George (31.5)
– T. Ross (30.0)

Los Angeles Lakers: 7
- J. Harden (33.8)
– B. Knight (33.5)
– K. Durant (32.5)
– C. Anthony (32.0)
– R. Gay (31.5)
– N. Hilario (30.0)
– D. Williams (30.0)

Memphis Grizzlies: 1
- K. Durant (30.8)

Miami Heat: 3
- B. Griffin (35.0)
– S. Curry (32.5)
– K. Durant (30.5)

Minnesota Timberwolves: 1
- P. George (30.5)

Milwaukee Bucks: 2
– B. Lopez (32.0)
– K. Love (30.0)

New Orleans Pelicans: 2
- A. Jefferson (33.0)
– C. Anthony (32.5)

New York Knicks: 7
- J. Harden (36.5)
– K. Durant (35.0)
– L. James (32.8)
– R. Anderson (31.0)
– K. Irving (30.3)
– G. Dragic (30.0)
– A. Jefferson (30.0)

 

 

Jun 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) reacts during the first quarter of game three of the 2014 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) reacts during the first quarter of game three of the 2014 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City Thunder: 5
- L. James (33.5)
– K. Irving (31.0)
– I. Thomas (31.0)
– S. Curry (30.3)
– D. Waiters (30.0)

Orlando Magic: 3
- L. Aldridge (36.0)
– K. Love (31.0)
– T. Parker (30.0)

Philadelphia 76ers: 2
– K. Durant (37.0)
– A. Afflalo (30.5)

Phoenix Suns: 3
- L. James (36.0)
– K. Durant (35.0)
– R. Westbrook (30.0)

Portland Trail Blazers: 10
- K. Durant (38.0)
– S. Curry (36.0)
– B. Griffin (35.5)
– D. Cousins (33.3)
– D. DeRozan (32.5)
– L. James (32.0)
– R. Gay (31.0)
– J. Harden (30.3)
– C. Anthony (30.0)
– P. George (30.0)

San Antonio Spurs: 0
- N/A

Sacramento Kings: 4
- C. Anthony (36.0)
– P. George (33.5)
– J. Harden (32.5)
– J. Sullinger (31.0)

Toronto Raptors: 5
- K. Durant (37.5)
– B. Griffin (33.0)
– L. James (31.0)
– S. Curry (30.5)
– C. Anthony (30.0)

Utah Jazz: 2
– K. Durant (35.0)
– C. Anthony (31.5)

Washington Wizards: 2
- C. Paul (38.0)
– J. Harden (30.0)

 

For those of you counting at home– yes, Durant is a scoring machine; yes, I have included player totals at the end of this article; and yes, the Spurs were that good. Actually, it was the Spurs’ team defense that made them so. This is something I would love to see Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts focus on, though it is not his forte. Usually when a big name comes to Portland, either Wesley Matthews or Nicolas Batum receives a hearty butt slap and a “Go get ‘em, buddy” as preparation for a night of dogging the evening’s pseudo-Jordan incarnate.

Sure, this 30+ metric is not perfect, as a handful of these averages were one-and-dones (although James “Who?” Anderson did actually spank Houston twice to earn his place here), but it does illustrate just how poorly the Trail Blazers contained the league’s best and brightest last season. If they hope to move from the grey area of the fringe-elite to the shining pedestal of real contention, they cannot let every player with All-Star aspirations carve them up like this.

The Trail Blazers have reached a point where they need a defensive wringer or a change in defensive ideology. Since neither of Portland’s aforementioned wings are specialized enough to make option one a true possibility, and the Trail Blazers signed no such saviors in free agency, option two seems the course to pursue. However; the notion of a shift brings about a couple of important questions: Can Stotts construct a new paradigm, and do the Trail Blazers have the talent to adhere to it?

The answer is probably ‘No’ on that first front, but fortune favors the bold, and the Trail Blazers cannot win a championship on offense alone. There needs to be an attempted defensive prioritization, or, at the very least, a better plan than the ‘short straw’ method we endured from October to May. The onus is on Stotts and his staff to devise a battle strategy that can keep Portland out of the super-star slaughterhouse in the upcoming season.

 

 

Number of teams against which each player averaged 30+ points in 2013-14
Kevin Durant: 20
Carmelo Anthony: 10
LeBron James: 9
James Harden: 7
Stephen Curry, Kevin Love: 5
Paul George: 4
Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, Rudy Gay: 3
Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving, Ryan Anderson: 2
Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, DeMar DeRozan, Dirk Nowitzki, Goran Dragic, Gordon Hayward, Arron Afflalo, Deron Williams, Tyreke Evans, Brook Lopez, Nick Young, Eric Gordon, Terrence Ross, Brandon Knight, Nene Hilario, Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger, James Anderson, Dion Waiters: 1

 

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Tags: Kevin Durant Nicolas Batum Portland Trail Blazers Wesley Matthews

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