7 Things Trail Blazers can take away from 2023 NBA Finals

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers and Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers and Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
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Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, Credit: Ron Chenoy – USA TODAY Sports /

Blazers takeaway No. 2: Maximizing possessions through ball security

Amongst all playoff teams this year, the Nuggets and Heat were first and second, respectively, in lowest turnover average per game.

Unsurprisingly, they are the top three in assist-to-turnover ratio amongst playoff teams. Denver is significantly above the rest of the teams at 2.24, and Miami is third at 2.04. This stat supports what the eye test shows – Denver moves the ball exceptionally well and efficiently, which has much to do with The Joker.

It’s interesting, because the Nuggets and Heat don’t necessarily have traditional “pass first” point guards. Jamal Murray averages 6.2 assists per game, and Kyle Lowry averages 5.1 assists per game; this goes hand-in-hand with the point mentioned earlier about both teams having such great playmaking centers.

Denver, Miami, and Golden State all have guards that shoot exceptionally well. As a result, they have highly efficient offensive systems built around their big man’s court vision and getting shooters open off screens; this is something perfect for the Blazers to emulate, given the skill sets of shooting with Lillard and Simons and passing with Nurkic.

They have attempted to do so already, but one hindrance is their number of turnovers. The Blazers ranked 27th in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.67. While they have great shooters and a passing big man in Nurkic, the formula will only work if they maximize their possessions and take care of the ball.

Lillard was the only Blazers player in the top 50 for turnovers this season, coming in tied for 12th at 3.3 per game; this isn’t concerning given the amount he has the ball in his hands. However, as a team, they were 22nd in assists (24.2 per game) and tied for 19th in turnovers (14.5).

Portland’s team strength is its offense and shooting, but shooting can’t be a true strength unless the team maximizes its possessions.

One solution to this problem is to bring in players that are better decision-makers, such as the Wizards’ Monte Morris, who is constantly atop the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.

Another solution lies in the hands of head coach Chauncey Billups; he needs to improve his team’s offensive system that plays to the Blazers’ strengths and better maximizes their possessions.