Lowe: Blazers defensive flaws may catch up with them against better teams
Zach Lowe of Grantland.com tackled one of the league’s biggest questions this week, how good is this Blazers team actually?
Lowe praised Stotts’ adjustments to their pick and roll defense but also looked at some things they aren’t doing very well on defense, mainly isolation and other team’s hitting the offensive glass them, and how those things may catch up with them. He also talks about the possibility of Portland accelerating their process by making a trade.
Sitting back like this has also limited Portland’s fouling, and it has helped the team’s rebounding by keeping both bigs closer to the basket. Portland has allowed just 99.7 points per 100 possessions in the 266 minutes Lopez and Aldridge have shared the floor, equivalent to a top-five team mark, and it has rebounded 76.8 percent of opponent misses in those minutes. That would have led the league last season, a very encouraging sign given the preseason rebounding worries.
The question then becomes, Is this it? Is this as good as Portland’s defense can be? The signs on the boards aren’t all encouraging, by the way. Four of the Blazers’ first 11 opponents rank among the top seven in offensive rebounding rate, and all of them have torched Portland on the offensive glass, per NBA.com. (The other seven opponents rank 17th or worse.) The competition will get better, and there is a very basic lack of major plus defenders on the roster. A solid system without major defensive talent can only take a team so far.
It’s tempting, staring at that 9-2 record, to think about how Portland could trade itself up a notch. There is a sad, rim-protecting center available in Houston, for instance, who would represent a major defensive upgrade over Lopez and fit nicely with Aldridge’s midrange game. The Blazers could also use another backup wing, though Wright is playing almost exclusively at small forward, and rookie C.J. McCollum will be back in a few weeks. Fellow rookie Allen Crabbe might crack Stotts’s nine-man rotation at some point.
The rest of Lowe’s piece is insightful and educational as always. Read the rest here.