The Trail Blazers are working their way back up the NBA standings. After winning their last three games they can now look forward to a month where they have an easy schedule and a lot of home games. What issues do they need to iron out if they want to be a threat in the Western Conference?
The Trail Blazers still have some issues to be ironed out if they want to get back to competing in their conference, we broke them into more detail below.
Opponent free throws
This has been a problem all season. Fouling opponents on drives or making ill-advised fouls that get the opponent in the bonus early in the quarter have been a theme since day one. The addition of Carmelo Anthony and his size may mean that rather than having to intentionally foul an opposition big under the basket, they can defend with some strength to try and stop the player.
Interestingly, it had been a lot of the role players who were the culprits when it came to fouling. A lot of them were playing more minutes than they should have been with the injuries and lack of size at the big spots.
Kent Bazemore is still struggling with fouling on the perimeter but he may now be able to play the two more than the three so he can matchup better size wise. Nassir Little had the same issue but at 19 he is still learning, his move back to the bench and being able to be around a player like Melo will help him.
The last three games the foul total has been 22, 21 and 20. This is a nice trend down from the 23.6 average that had them last in the league!
It seems like most of the issues this team has had to start the season were made worse by availability due to injury. Just like the fouls, a lack of size has meant that the players that were available when the team was struggling had to play up a position.
Kent Bazemore has played some minutes at the four this season, though he has long arms he is only 6’5 so should never play the four. having to matchup with someone like Lebron James ( it hasn’t happened ) would be a nightmare for him.
This is part of the reason they have struggled on the defensive glass.
Rodney Hood playing exclusively at the three should make a big difference to this team’s defensive rebound rate. The addition of Melo at the four means Hood can rebound his position well when he plays smaller threes on a nightly basis.
The games that Hassan Whiteside missed in the middle of the month, this team got killed on the glass. His defensive rebounding has improved since he returned from injury, if he can clean the glass like the Whiteside of old, that will solve a lot of the issues on the boards
Finishing at the rim
This issue has reared its head continuously this season. This one is probably down to shot selection and spacing more than anything. But having size helps too.
Prior to his signing we probably didn’t think that Melo would finish efficiently at the rim, but through six games he has shown he can finish well at the rim, be it through contact or blowing by people from time to time.
The role players are still struggling around the rim though. This may mean they play less minutes moving forward. This will probably be the case anyway as the health of this team improves.
Whiteside is another who would like to finish at the rim better than his career low of 65 percent. Better spacing could be a large part of this. If he has been playing injured and is now back to full health, we may see an uptick here.
If the Blazers can become league average in these areas they will see a marked improvement in efficiency on both ends. As mentioned many times, health is a big part of this. The return of Jusuf Nurkic in January and then maybe Zach Collins in February will also help the above areas.
In the meantime it’s up to the key personnel to improve their games in these areas, this is a definite playoff team but they will need to work on these issues if they want to be one of the best teams in their conference.