Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings (What Stotts will be watching)

Tonight, the Trail Blazers visit the soon-to-be named Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. And yes, that name is as horrible as you think it is. The reason why I think it’s just absolutely the worst? Just look out for pun overload from really cheesy sports writers.

Kings lose a snore fest

DeMarcus Cousins puts the Blazers to bed, scores 31 in rout

Blazers’ Aldridge gives Kings a nightmare at the Sleep Train

Seriously, it just hurts my journalistic heart to know what’s coming. But I digress.

This will be preseason game No. 3 for the Trail Blazers and rookie Joel Freeland gets his first start at center. The Blazers have the guy who’s been called the incumbent all training camp, J.J. Hickson, as “questionable” for tonight. It’s hard to reclaim your spot when you’ve got banged-up ribs, which would be Hickson’s big drawback these days.

As reported yesterday, rookie Will Barton is back with the team. After Sunday’s practice, Barton met with the media and seemed genuinely excited about making his NBA debut. However, if he does get some clock tonight, I expect Barton to come out passive and not like an over-anxious rookie. Simply because, A. he hasn’t played with some of his teammates since those summer workouts and does not know the tendencies of say a Sasha Pavlovic, Jared Jefferies or Adam Morrison (guys he has not played with at all), B. young players learn better when they do, not just watch, and he’s only watched the team drill through the sets. But his saving grace could be that Blazers have slowly incorporated the new offense and there’s still not enough in their play vocabulary to confound a wet-behind-the-ears rookie playing catch up.

Also, look for regular rotation guys to pick up more minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if LaMarcus Aldridge breaks through that 24-minute ceiling that he’s hit the first two games. As the regular season gets closer, the rotation players will see upwards of 30 minutes while those fighting for a spot will get less and less time on the floor.

Stotts, the stat guy
Since so much of the training camp narrative has focused on defense, I wanted to understand the statistics that coach Terry Stotts pays attention to. After a game, what numbers on the stat sheet will his eyes focus on first. For example, does he think it’s important to keep a team under 25 points a quarter? Does he want to hold opponents to 20 or less offensive rebounds? That kind of stuff.

Here are his thoughts about opponent’s shooting percentage:

  • “I look at shooting percentage as the best telling stat between winning and losing. If we can hold teams to 43, 44 percent, you have a good chance of winning the game. Obviously, you’re not going to do that every game but if over the long haul, if you’re a defensive team that can hold a team to 43 percent shooting, you’re going to be pretty good.”

On Friday, the Suns shot 51.2 percent from the field and also 50 percent from behind the 3-point line. Not good defense anyway you look at it, and clearly not the number Stotts envisions a good defensive team allowing.

“(Forty-three percent) is a high standard but that’s kinda what I look at. That would be the number 1 thing.”

Opponent’s shooting percentage is most effected by how many contested shots it must attempt. So be sure to watch for this tonight in Sacramento, because Stotts says he wants the team to contest 75 to 80 percent of shots.

Another telling statistic will be Blazers’ defensive rebounding percentage. Not total rebounds. Remember, the Blazers actually outrebounded the Suns 47-43 but lost the game by 11 points.

  • “I really don’t have target numbers for free throw attempts. I look at defensive rebounding percentage. I think, you got to rebound at least 70 percent of your opponent’s shots. I don’t really look at total rebounds, but I look at defensive rebounding percentage

  • “Different stats mean different things. I value statistics and what they can tell you to help you win but a lot times it just validates what you feel as a coach.”

Keep this stuff in mind when watching the Blazers’ D this year. Good reference to come back to when understanding if the team is playing the kind of ball Stotts has been trying to get it to play since early October.

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