How the Portland Trail Blazers’ rookies fared last night

Five Man Rookie Rotation

In another game played without All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers were over-matched by the Memphis Grizzlies. Nicolas Batum also sat out with an arm injury. Memphis was simply too big, too aggressive, and just flat out better than Portland.

This game featured an all-rookie lineup at times, which came as early as the 1st quarter. Damian Lillard, Will Barton, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, and Meyers Leonard were all on the floor at once – it wasn’t the prettiest lineup that the Blazers put out last night.

The lineup struggled on both ends. The Grizzlies had their way with the Blazers’ frontcourt rookies. Freeland and Leonard gave up numerous offensive rebounds to Ed Davis in the first half. They adjusted in the second half and ended up winning the offensive rebound category 8-7.

The adjustment wasn’t enough as turnovers and poor shooting lead to a 76-94 loss.

Slow Start

The Blazers, especially star rookie Damain Lillard, got off to a slow start offensively. This was a night that they needed scoring from the upcoming rookie of the year.

The team shot only 4-29 from beyond the arc. You’re not going to win many games with shooting like that.

Their poor shooting had them fighting from behind the whole game.  Portland went on a short run in 3rd quarter, but Memphis didn’t allow them an inch – creating turnovers and scoring at will down low.

Rookie Big Men

It was a rough night for Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard. They both showed some of their offensive ability. However, it was their lack of defense that stood out in this one.

Meyers Leonard

It was a rough night for Leonard and the Trail Blazers.

Both big men committed four fouls a piece (Memphis dominated at the free-throw line: going 22/28 while the Blazers shot just 6/10). The aggressiveness of the Grizzlies, as the continued to attack the basket, was too much for the Blazers and the free-throw numbers show it.

Back-to-back jumpers by Leonard in the third quarter actually cut the Grizzlies lead to 7. Leonard is shooting his mid-range shot with confidence as of late. This is an improvement. This is something to build off of. It opens things up offensively for him and the rest of the team.

Rookie Wings

Will Barton followed the rest of the team with horrible shooting. Barton went 0-5 from the field in just under 10 minutes of play. He had a rough game and he really hasn’t showed the team much this season. The Blazers will definitely be looking for a better replacement this offseason from their backup shooting guard.

I like Victor Claver. He doesn’t hurt the team by being on the court. Although he doesn’t show any flashiness – nothing about his game pops out at you. He is an average defender and plays the game the right way (as to say he plays smart and fundamentally sound).

The more minutes he gets, the more comfortable he seems to be out there. He has shown some decent scoring ability the past few games as well.

 What the Future Holds

As far as the these rookies go, the future is bright.

We all know what Lillard can do. He will in fact be rookie of the year. I can’t say enough about this kids game. The shooting ability, his passing, his demeanor on the court… A great point guard for the future.

The Blazers wings need help. I like Victor as a backup to Batum. I think he can fill in that role rather nicely. Barton, however, is not ready and the Blazers have to find someone that can come in as a backup to Wesley Matthews. If Elliot Williams can ever stay healthy I would love to see him fill that role.

Then again, I’m not so sure he will have the chance as he is set to become a free-agent this summer.

The bigs have shown spurts of offensive ability and little to no defense to speak of. If the Blazers can bring in a defensive big that these two young guys can model themselves of, it would help tremendously.

This is something that they lack right now and have had in the past.

They sure aren’t going to learn from J.J. Hickson, I’ll tell you that.


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About Jason Hartzog

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