The NBA is back! With the Portland Trail Blazers due to play their first warm-up scrimmages, what three things should fans look out for in these games?
The Portland Trail Blazers return to the court with warm-up scrimmages about to commence in the NBA’s return in Orlando.
With new personnel, some players missing, and then the return from injury of crucial frontcourt players, there are many things for fans to consider. What are three things to look out for as the Blazers return to the court?
Who do the Blazers use at the small forward position?
We know that Coach Terry Stotts said that Carmelo Anthony would play the three in Orlando. But, because of his age and these games being like a mini playoff format, it’s unlikely that he will play more than 36 minutes a night. Also, Melo is likely to be the backup power forward, so his minutes at small forward may be limited to around 27 – 29 a night.
Though Stotts has said that Nurkic could spend some minutes at the four, this would likely be a defensive nightmare against the quicker fours or more perimeter-oriented teams.
Though Gary Trent Jr doesn’t have great size to play the three, he can guard the quicker wing threats and won’t get completely blown up on the perimeter. Trent can play the backup two when McCollum is off the floor and then alternate the three in the critical minutes.
Nassir Little has entered conduction protocol so unfortunately, won’t be able to play backup three, thus meaning more minutes there for Trent.
Anfernee Simons is now going to need to step up more at backup guard too.
How does the Center rotation look?
Having 48 competent minutes at the center position is promising for this team, but Hassan Whiteside‘s defensive deficiencies are still a problem. Nurkic needs to play the lions share of the minutes at center to anchor this defense.
Zach Collins probably won’t be able to play any backup five due to having Melo as the only real competent backup. Wenyen Gabriel is available as a backup big man, but he was only used sparingly before the NBA’s hiatus.
Nurkic will likely start, with Whiteside coming off the bench for between 16 and 22 minutes a night. If Nurkic is struggling for conditioning, then Whiteside may end up with more minutes, though.
How do Collins and Nurkic look when they return?
This is probably the most exciting storyline of the Blazer’s return. Nurkic has been out for almost 18 months with a broken leg but has been physically ready to return since March. He has lost weight, been practicing his threes, and is now prepared to play.
As a pick and roll combo with Damian Lillard, he is a massive offensive threat as either a passer or roll man. If Nurkic is back to his best, then this team will be stronger defensively, while also giving the team a passing big man option out of the pick and roll and from the post.
Collins has been out since November after surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder, but he has worked on both his body and mind in the seven months he has missed. Collins was ready to break out this season before the injury, but can still show his growth as he has been given the start at power forward for the NBA’s return.
Collins skill and shooting combined with his strong defense can transform a frontcourt that struggled massively on defense before the NBA hiatus. Collins shoulder has come through contact workouts, so he should be ready to hit the court at full strength.
The return of Collins and Nurkic is huge, but this new frontcourt rotation will also be fascinating. Defensively they will miss Trevor Ariza, but they can cover his absence with the returns from injury of the above pair.