The Portland Trail Blazers season is hanging in the balance with a combination of injuries and terrible defensive play hindering their success. But is the answer to this problem a trading of personnel, or does the issue lie deeper within?
When the Blazers traded 2 first-round picks for Robert Covington in the off-season of 2020, it was a sign to the league that this was it, this group was going all-in for success trading away future assets in a win-now attitude. This move hasn’t exactly panned out.
Covington has had a disappointing season shooting the ball, averaging his lowest point average since his rookie season on splits of 34% from the field and 30% from three. Despite this being a letdown, he was bought in to bolster the defense, but even that has been disappointing so far.
We touched on how the Blazer could get Covington easier looks on offense, but his defense hasn’t exactly been elite either.
Defensive win shares (DWS) is a stat that estimates the total amount of wins contributed to an individual player’s defense. Covington has again posted the lowest number (0.5) since his rookie season, after posting an impressive 3.0 last season.
Can this dramatic drop-off in production be blamed entirely on Covington, or are there other factors influencing his play?
During the time of writing, the Portland Trail Blazers rank 28th in defensive efficiency, the same position they finished in at the end of the 2019-2020 season. In fact, during the last 8 full seasons with Terry Stotts as head coach, Portland has only been in the better half of the league in defense (top 15) twice. This underwhelming defensive start is not a fluke.
So despite Covington’s rough start as an individual, the blame should not be blamed on him, in fact, the defensive game plan and structure.
So now we move onto the real question;
Does a trade actually help the Portland Trail Blazers?
Until the defensive game plan and tactics change, I don’t think a trade will be the thing that turns the season around for the Blazers. We have a prime example in Covington, of why trading for a highly regarded defensive player won’t automatically change the franchise’s defensive numbers.
Players with defensive upside at positions of need like JaVale McGee, Aaron Gordon, and Danuel House, who have been floated around in rumors all season and could be acquired for cheap. These are the kind of players who are worth taking a chance on, but at the end of the day, if the defensive coaching isn’t up to par, nothing will change.