3. The Blazers will need a more diverse shot profile
In the Lillard era, the Blazers leaned heavily into threes and layups, with the exception of CJ McCollum’s mid-range shooting. Last season, the team ranked second to last in shot attempts from floater range (5 to 9 feet) and mid range (10 to 14 feet).
Lillard’s shot profile of layups, free throws and threes drove efficient offenses during his tenure.
By contrast, Henderson complements his driving ability not with a strong 3-point arsenal, but with a confident mid-range pull-up game. His strong base and balance helps him change pace and flow into mid-rangers as a pick-and-roll operator and isolation scorer.
Although Henderson’s scoring game revolves around his rim finishing and mid-range shooting, his drive-and-kick game should create open threes for teammates, illustrating the diverse profile of shots fans should expect to see from Henderson’s work as the primary creator.
Henderson and Portland’s other guards developing chemistry with Ayton should further diversify the Blazers’ shot locations. Compared to former Portland center Jusuf Nurkic, Ayton thrived around the basket and in the mid range.
Ayton’s 279 shots from 8 to 16 feet far exceeded Nurkic’s 20 shots from that distance last season, and Ayton’s field-goal percentage from within 8 feet – 69.8 percent – bested Nurkic’s conversion rate of 57.5 percent.
In other words, Henderson-Ayton pick-and-rolls project to yield a greater variety of shots from inside the arc compared to Lillard-Nurkic pick-and-rolls, which predictably led to layups and threes. Simons’ three-level scoring adds more variation to the Blazers’ expected shot selection.
In the beginning of the post-Dame era, Blazers fans should not expect changes to yield positive results. Portland has no way to replace Lillard’s ultra-efficient offense.
What Blazers fans should look for is how Portland’s young core attempts to establish its identity. Returning to being a perennial playoff team will take time, but the process of figuring out how to get there starts now.