Portland Trail Blazers: Is Wenyen Gabriel the way in Orlando?

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 29: Wenyen Gabriel #35 of the Portland Trail Blazers rebounds during the second half of an NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on February 29, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 29: Wenyen Gabriel #35 of the Portland Trail Blazers rebounds during the second half of an NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on February 29, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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Trevor Ariza’s withdrawal has left the Portland Trail Blazers looking a little short; is Wenyen Gabriel the man to step up at NBA Disney?

Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers had one of the best defensive wing tandems in the NBA- Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless were robust, versatile, and incredibly critical to the team’s success.

Fast forward to July 2020, and the Trail Blazers are missing them. Aminu and Harkless never scored the ball well, and this was always an issue, but with Rodney Hood still on the sidelines, and Trevor Ariza opting out of the NBA’s restart, the Blazers are looking thinner than ever.

Time to get back to basics? I’d say so. The Blazer’s wing options for the Orlando bubble are as follows: Carmelo Anthony, Gary Trent Jr (ish), Zach Collins, Nassir Little, Mario Hezonja, and Wenyen Gabriel. Out of those top 3 options, are any that versatile?

Melo remains a dangerous scorer but has his (expected) defensive struggles. GTJ is an exciting small-ball option, but at 6-5, he will experience mismatch problems. Then there’s Zach Collins, who is superb defensively, but would probably struggle to hang around the perimeter for most of the game.

Step forward, Wenyen Gabriel. Do I think the Blazers should start Wenyen? Probably not. The 23-year-old has started just one game in the NBA, and this would be a difficult place to be thrown straight in. But do I think the former Kentucky Wildcat has a considerable role to play in Orlando? Absolutely.

His one career start came against the Lakers this season, and if anything, showed how big of a role he can play for Portland. I’ve seen some call it the best 0 point debut they’ve ever seen, and I could see why.

Gabriel wasn’t flashy, didn’t look to score or overplay, but did the dirty work in what ended up as a 127-119 win for the Blazers. He did a decent job in hounding LeBron and AD and was a nuisance on the perimeter too.

I said I don’t think he should (or will) start, but think of the chaos he could cause in the second unit. If Melo does come off of the bench, Wenyen is the perfect cover, a guy who will keep Portland in games directly through his hustle. If Melo ends up starting, then the Blazers bench could include Trent Jr, Wenyen, Little, and Whiteside.

I’m not saying they’ll completely keep the Lakers out, but that group can certainly slow them down. Which is maybe all Damian Lillard needs?

I’d say he looks ready as well, huh?

The Blazers could do with Wenyen stepping up in Orlando and providing the defensive cover for Lillard and McCollum. The playoffs are all about finding new heroes, and Gabriel could be ready to win over Trail Blazer fans.

dark. Next. Portland Trail Blazers: 3 Free Agency replacements for Caleb Swanigan