New Team, New Start
Terry Stotts has yet to earn a winning record as a head coach in the NBA. Prior to being with the Portland Trail Blazers, he spent two seasons with both the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks where he had a combined record of 115-168.
This season with Portland , Stotts finished with a 33-49 record, which is right around his average winning percentage of .405.
His best season was during his first year in Milwaukee (2005-06). He was just short of a winning record, going 40-42. They made the playoffs that year, but lost in five games to the Detroit Pistons. Offseason trades and injuries to starting players the next year caused the Bucks to take a step back and out of the playoffs. Stotts was then fired with 18 games remaining in the season.
The Blazers gave coach Stotts his third chance as a head coach in the league. After one season, it looks like he may have found a home with the Blazers. They have had their ups and downs, but overall he has done a solid job with the roster at hand.
That being said, in order to solidify himself as the Blazers long-term head coach, he will have to show improvements next season.
With such a young roster, developing the youth was by far Stotts’ strong suit this season.
Stotts was able to put Nicolas Batum in a situation that he was more comfortable with – not just sticking him in the corner like Nate McMillan did. Nicolas Batum had some career games early on and looked to be on track to becoming the All-Star forward that he is capable of being.
However, injuries to his shoulder and wrist hindered his game and slowed down the progress he was making.
Late in the year, it was evident that Portland wasn’t going to make the playoffs. From that point on, Stotts decided to start giving the young guys more minutes – well, that and injuries made the decision for him.
Nonetheless, the decision to get the young guys minutes was critical to their development. It should have them ready to compete when called upon next season, whether they’re playing teams that are fighting for a playoff spot or fighting for seeding.
Damian Lillard was outstanding in his rookie season. I’m not going to give Stotts too much credit on his behalf – he is just an outstanding player.
Stotts and the organization did, however, put him in the right situation to succeed. Given his skill set, Lillard couldn’t have been paired with a better big man in LaMarcus Alridge.
Ability to Compete
Even with a depleted roster down the stretch, Portland went to the wire with playoff teams. More often than not, however, they were on the losing end. Their youth and inexperience played a huge role in that.
The fact of the matter is that you need talent to compete in the NBA. The Blazers didn’t have enough.
Even without the talent that they needed to compete in a tough Western Conference, the Blazers found a way to stick around with the best teams in the NBA. No matter what the score was, you knew that Portland would keep fighting, and that it had a chance to at least make it a close game when it mattered.
I expected better defense from the Blazers in 2012-13. Stotts was praised by Rick Carlisle (head coach of the Dallas Mavericks) for his ability to improve the Mavericks’ defense as an assistant coach. So, for that, I expected more.
The Blazers’ interior defense was horrible this season. They led the league in most points allowed in the paint with 47.4 points per game.
Their overall defense as a team needs work – that should be Stotts’ main focus this offseason as he prepares his crew. Teams are getting almost half their points against the Blazers from high-percentage shots. Opponents were able to penetrate too easily against the Blazers, and while in the paint, they didn’t have a shot blocker to disrupt shots.
Again, this comes down to talent. This doesn’t entirely lie in the hands of Stotts. You need talent to compete in this game.
Inconsistency Within the Rotation
Other than Meyers Leonard and Eric Maynor (after acquiring him mid-season), the Blazers didn’t have consistency in their rotation. Guys on the bench never knew whether they were going to get to play each night.
Not knowing if you are going to play can be frustrating as a player. I’m sure that it is hard stay focused not knowing. One night you could get 15 minutes, the next night you don’t even take off your warm-ups.
Stotts’ rotation was confusing at times. Whenever Batum was out with an injury, his starter was Victor Claver. But nights that Batum was playing, Claver often remained stuck on the bench.
I would like to see more of a consistent rotation next season.
Stotts did a wonderful job with the roster that he inherited. He had a solid starting five that could compete with some of the best teams in the NBA, but he also had a bench that simply couldn’t compete. Balancing the two would often become problematic for certain coaches – Stotts did a fine job.
The Blazers unexpectedly competed for a playoff spot this season. Thanks to the starters, along with Stotts’ coaching, they were competitive, fun to watch and also frustrating at times.
Once they realized that it wasn’t going to happen, they tumbled down to a sub-par record, earning them the 10th best chance at securing a top-3 draft pick, but more likely, a No. 10 pick.