The Portland Trail Blazers have a winning record to start the season, but they need to make certain adjustments to succeed against good teams.
The Portland Trail Blazers have started the season off well. They currently have an eight and five record, but they have mainly played weaker teams. If they want this winning trend to continue, they need to make some adjustments.
On both ends of the court, they have been patchy. This is in part due to injuries, and then also fitting in new personnel. The injuries have been a big disruption, with Zach Collins gone for the season, and Jusuf Nurkic out for eight weeks. CJ McCollum is now out for the next game against the San Antonio Spurs with an ankle sprain, but this doesn’t look serious.
Which 3 key adjustments need to be made to continue their winning streak?
Adjustment #1 – find more minutes for Gary Trent Jr
Gary Trent Jr is just about to turn 22, but he shows maturity beyond his years on the court. The 2018 second-round pick was one of the Blazers’ best players in the NBA Bubble last year, and this season, he has been one of their best shooters.
Shooting 44.3 percent from three through 11 games, Trent actually leads the Blazers in three-point shooting percentage. He is also attempting the third-most threes on this team at 5.5 attempts a night.
Trent is one of the Blazers’ best man defenders, and although it’s tough to play him alongside McCollum, using Derrick Jones Jr at the four and Robert Covington at the five, this may be the Blazers best offensive and defensive lineup.
With McCollum now out for at least two games, Trent will have the chance to push his case for more minutes. As a prototypical three and d player, he needs to be playing at least 25 minutes a night, not the 22 he has now.
Adjustment #2 – get Carmelo Anthony more three-point attempts
Carmelo Anthony has made some massive shots in his brief Blazer career. NBA fans around the world have come to expect this type of shotmaking at the end of games.
Melo’s issue at this point of his career is that he finds it harder to make his off the dribble or fadeaway mid-range shots. These are some of the most difficult shots in the book, and he takes more of these than most players in the league.
Melo shoots 39 percent from three for the Blazers, but just 40 percent from mid-range. Though Melo has always taken many shots from mid-range, if the Blazers can get him playing off-ball like we have seen on occasion in his 70 games with them, they can better utilize his clutch shot-making.
Melo’s ball movement has also been a big part of his change in role this season, we touched on this in a piece last week. If he can share the ball, and play more off it, he can contribute at a high level this season.
At the end of games, get Dame with the ball in his hands, either pulling up, or kicking to Melo on drives.
Adjustment #3 – play Enes Kanter in defensive lineups
Enes Kanter was a lot more effective defensively in his first start this season. He had five blocks and two steals in the exciting win over the Atlanta Hawks. Though Kanter will never be able to defend out to the perimeter, if surrounded by defensive starters Derrick Jones Jr and Robert Covington, he can be more effective.
Ideally, Terry Stotts would play Kanter just with these starters, then go small with Covington at the five, and then Harry Giles at the five for the remainder of the big man minutes.
With no other center options on the Blazers roster, using the stronger defender Giles alongside Melo will help the bench, while meaning Melo doesn’t have to do as much on that end.
Kanter alongside Melo is a terrible defensive lineup, but they can be maximized offensively and protected defensively by splitting these two.
If Stotts can make these three adjustments, the Blazers could be better on offense, and then more competitive on defense. With games against strong Western Conference opposition coming up, they need to be at their best.