Blazer's Edge is one of the best (if not the best) team blog on the internet. So I'm very glad to be able to pick Dave Deckard's brain ahead of this home-and-home with the Blazers. Check out more of Dave's great stuff (in addition to stuff from Ben Golliver, Chris Lucia and the gang) up at Blazer's Edge. Always an enlightening read, as is this post (because it's 90 percent Dave). Enjoy.
Q: Where on the spectrum of confidence do you find yourself considering the Blazers' bench? Has it improved enough to be deemed good?
DAVE: On some nights. Let's get the bad news out of the way first. The reserve big men are not ready. I suppose you can argue Meyers Leonard and Thomas Robinson have potential but right now they're barely holding the fort on their best nights. Anything less than their best and they have to be pulled immediately. Joel Freeland is having a bad start to the season statistically compared to last year's absolutely forgettable performance but he looks like a godsend in comparison. At least he knows how to play...or how to work, whichever. You can flip a coin with the other two on any given night. Heads they'll almost look like they belong in an NBA uniform. Tails they're better suited to be giant mascots at Hot Dog on a Stick.
At least the wing s have NBA experience and know how to produce. Dorell Wright has done well on defense and hit a couple three-pointers in limited minutes. He'll not hurt you...solid guy. Mo Williams has been playing off-guard next to Damian Lillard instead of spelling him at point. (Lillard's still near the 40 mpg zone. The Blazers can't take him out.) You know the book on Mo. He'll shoot you into or out of the game, but either way he'll shoot. A leper at the Miss Universe contest could score more than Portland's bench did last year so Mo is a step up. But if you catch him on an off night then Portland's bench becomes bad again. Plus Portland's backcourt defense is putrid even on good nights.
Q: Neil Olshey seems popular, but has Terry Stotts won the hearts and minds of Portland's most fanatic followers?
DAVE: Yes and no. I think most people like how he operates and like the offense he's designed. Ball movement, Nicolas Batum dishing assists like a point guard, Damian Lillard producing like an All-Star, these things are good. But Olshey, the consummate salesman, sold this summer's acquisitions pretty hard. Tell me, do Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, and Mo Williams a radical, destiny-changing upgrade make? Not in this league. When a fan base is higher on the team's prospects than the team is able to deliver, who takes the blame? Three guesses, and you can eliminate "GM" and "the players" from your list. Odds are that even those who cotton to Terry Stotts are going to start muttering that the team might need a fresh voice by the end of the season. It's not fair, but that's life in the big leagues.
Q: If the Blazers were destined for the postseason and you could choose the opponent from the expected upper tier of the West, who'd it be and why?
DAVE: Easy. San Antonio. The Blazers play them well and it's no accident. Portland's vulnerable to points in the paint, fast breaks, athletic centers, and quick guards. Tony Parker used to be quick, but on the whole the Spurs play slow. Tim Duncan plays center sort of-or at least Lopez guards him when the teams face each other-but he's a perimeter player nowadays. The Blazers can outrun the Spurs, out-muscle them, and spread the floor on them to boot. I'm not saying Portland would win that series. San Antonio no doubt has another gear in store for the playoffs. But that's hands down the best matchup for Portland.
Q: Since Sacramento is horrid, what aspect of this weekend's matchup concerns you?
DAVE: The Blazers aren't necessarily winning or losing based on talent. They lost big to the Suns; they beat the Spurs. Teams who can exploit Portland's vulnerabilities are scary no matter what the relative standings or talent level.
Athletic centers give Robin Lopez all kinds of fits. So do skilled centers. If you count the pre-season he's made DeAndre Jordan, Enes Kanter, Miles Plumlee, and Dwight Howard look like all-world centers. Tim Duncan, whom Lopez limited to acceptable perimeter shots, still scored 24 against the Blazers. The only guy who hasn't ripped a hole in Portland's interior defense was JaVale McGee, and that's because the Nuggets got a cumulative case of the stupids and never went to him. DeMarcus Cousins may be a headache for your team but chances are he'll be a migraine to ours in at least one of these games.
Forwards don't bother the Blazers a bit but guards sure do. In four regular season games so far the following guards have all scored 20 or more on the Blazers: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, and James Harden. Plus Marco Belinelli got 19 and Tony Parker 17. Even guys like Greivis Vasquez and Ben McLemore could be scary. Isaiah Thomas is terrifying.
On paper the Blazers should wrap the Kings in a little bow and air-mail them to mama. In reality keeping Thomas and Cousins under control for two straight games may be a tough task for Portland. Sacramento scores pretty well on the break, forces some turnovers, isn't incompetent in the paint. Despite the normally-pathetic offense you've been enduring this could be a challenge for the Blazers.
On the other hand, the Kings don't defend the three well. If you let Portland shoot from distance you could be in for a long night.
More from Sactown Royalty:
- Please don't boo
- Q&A: Assistant city manager John Dangberg on Sacramento arena
- Sacramento Kings Player Power Rankings: DeMarcus Cousins on top early
- Atlanta's Dennis Schroeder suspended for low blow on DeMarcus Cousins
- Kings Links: Greivis Vasquez is overthinking it, DeMarcus Cousins' reputation and more