Getting the Job Done
Chances are, you don’t think about Terry Stotts without being prompted, but the truth is that his system is a big reason why those offensive stars have earned such praise.
Through 11 games, the Blazers are an impressive 9-2. That doesn’t happen by accident, and while a favorable schedule deserves some credit, so does the offensive mindset that Stotts has instilled in all of his players.
The year is still young, and there’s plenty of ball yet to be played; but if the early showing is any indication, Stotts and his crew will be in it when the season comes to an end.
Play to the Roster
Many coaches across the league — especially those who are relatively new to their respective organizations — are guilty of trying to mold their players to their system. Stotts has never been shy to admit he likes three-pointers, but he’s been more than willing to turn over the offense to a group of players that loves exciting basketball.
At this point in the season, the Blazers are one of the most dangerous teams in The Association from downtown. The sets Stotts runs in the half court allow players such as Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews to succeed off the ball, but more importantly, the head coach is allowing his team to play freely in transition.
Stotts isn’t necessarily going to push the tempo every possession, but what he will do is encourage quick shots. That’s a green light that every player in the league would love to see, and as a result, Portland is having fun in an offense that couldn’t be much further from Nate McMillan’s of two years ago.
The good news in this is that nobody has figured out how to stop the Blazers just yet. The bad news is that Portland just might be the first to beat itself. Up to this point, the team has lived by the three quite sufficiently, but as we all know, shooting slumps can be a death sentence for a squad that relies so heavily on long-distance buckets.
Keep an eye on this as the season goes on, but don’t be surprised if the head coach needs to make a few adjustments when the ball stops finding the bottom of the net.
Heavy Minutes for the Starters
Before the Blazers took down the Brooklyn Nets 108-98 on Monday night, this category was going to be all about defense. The team is still struggling to defend the paint (and in transition), but a solid effort with quick rotations helps us look past an area that must improve down the road.
This week’s not-so-honorable category actually belongs to something that has helped the team win. Stotts is playing his starters the most minutes in the NBA, and while production from the first five has caused this strong start, it’s also what broke down the team late in the 2012-13 season.
The truth is that Portland’s bench has been impressive when it has seen the minutes. Thomas Robinson is steadily improving offensively, Joel Freeland is proving that he was the right choice over Meyers Leonard and Mo Williams has become the spark fans thought he would be off the bench.
The problem is that we’ve seen the stars crash and burn once before, and nobody in Rip City wants to see it happen a second year in a row.
A Look Ahead
Some Real Competition
At this point in the season, don’t expect Stotts to change his rotation too drastically. That time will come when CJ McCollum makes his return, and eventually we should see the starters’ minutes-per-game numbers drop below No. 1 in the league.
For now, let’s keep an eye on how the Blazers play up to their competition. Stotts has done a good job of keeping this team motivated against some of the league’s bottom feeders, but once it gets past the Milwaukee Bucks, it has the Chicago Bulls at home and the Golden State Warriors on the road.
This team has shown what it can do just 11 games into the season, but no playoff seed was ever earned this early in the year.