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TomShoe's Player Profiles: Portland Trailblazers

TomShoe
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TomShoe's Player Profiles: Portland Trailblazers

So, it turns out "Mr. PER" John Hollinger is putting up his updated player profiles for this year. I know many people want to look at them, but ESPN can be a real B- when they're putting up paywalls and shoving the benefits of insider in your face every other article. So, for sh*ts and giggles, also because I'm pulling my hair out waiting for Oct. 30 (start of the regular season), I might as well post them here, for nbadraft.net and the whole internet to enjoy.

So yeah, the Blazers. They're going through the rebuilding process, based on the complete roster overhaul that they went through, dropping Camby, Felton, and Crawford. They still have Aldridge, and retained Batum, and also picked up Meyers, Lillard, and Will Barton in the draft, so they're expecting this to be a 1 year project. This team is talented, but somewhat shallow and inexperienced.

And they have Adam Morrison, so there.

Anyway, Blazers up, Raptors tomorrow, and the Brooklyn Nets, managed, produced, directed, and headlined by Jay-Z, up Wednesday.

Enjoy.

-TomShoe

PROJECTED STARTERS

DAMIAN LILLARD, PG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season | Player card

Scouting report
+ Shoot-first point guard with deep range. Decent passer with good handle.
+ Good athlete but not elite. Smart, efficient player. Draws fouls. Money from line.

Analysis
Lillard has some positive markers, but the negative indicators shouldn't be ignored either. Seniors taken in the lottery have a poor track record of success, and Lillard seems to fit the prototype of many. He doesn't have strong athletic metrics, and he played a very weak schedule as a collegian.

The offsetting positive is how tremendously efficient he is offensively. Lillard shot 40.9 percent on 3s and 88.7 percent from the line during his senior year, so at worst he is going to be a tremendous floor spacer. Additionally, despite having to be his team's main scorer at Weber State, his pure point rating wasn't bad. It assumed he'll find teammates more as a second or third option in the pros.

For those reasons, I have no problem with him as a first-rounder, but at No. 6, you want star potential. Based on his age and pedigree, Lillard seems to have a low ceiling in that regard.

WES MATTHEWS, SG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

16.4
3.9
2.2
14.3

Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Energetic defender with good strength and decent lateral quickness.
+ Has accurate set shot from distance but can't shoot off dribble. Quick first step.
+ Poor leaper who struggles to finish at basket. Average handle. Doesn't see floor.

Analysis
Matthews had largely the same season as the one before, except he had a more difficult time scoring. He dropped to 38.3 percent on 3-pointers, which probably should have been expected after his outlier 2010-11 mark, but a far more serious decline came inside the arc. His 43.4 percent mark on 2s was among the worst at the shooting guard spot and came with a marked decline in free throw attempts as well.

In particular, his 49.5 percent mark on shots at the rim stamped him as the league's worst finisher among non-Bobcats. Matthews had shot a splendid 63.9 percent on roughly the same number of shots per minute the season before, so it should revert to a point in between those two extremes.

One positive was Matthews' cut in turnovers. He ranked third among shooting guards with miscues on just 8.0 percent of his possessions.

Defensively, Matthews is miscast as a stopper, but he is pretty solid overall. He is strong, tough and likes to play D, but he lacks elite athleticism, can't jump and is a bit short for the role. His quick hands are a plus though, as he ranked eighth among shooting guards in steals per minute. The Blazers gave up 3.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with Matthews on the court, but this was a poor defensive team even when Matthews played.

NICOLAS BATUM, SF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

18.3
6.0
2.1
17.7

Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Long, slender, smooth combo forward who can shoot, run floor and finish.
+ Has length to be good defender, but lacks strength and is beaten regularly.
+ Struggles to take advantage of size in paint. Can't shoot off the dribble.

Analysis
Despite the periodic frustrations of watching him play and the Blazers' seemingly best efforts to stymie his progress, Batum had a strong bounce-back season in 2011-12. He has become an efficient and productive scorer, putting up an impressive 18.3 points per 40 minutes while sporting the fifth-best true shooting percentage at his position. Batum has a high, quick release and has become a good catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter, especially from the corners. He made 39.1 percent of his shots behind the arc last season.

Batum runs the floor and gets to the rim on cuts, shooting 65.3 percent at the basket with a decent free throw rate, once again shooting above 80 percent at the line.

His lone offensive bugaboo remains the in-between game. Batum has a lot of trouble posting smaller defenders due to his lack of strength, and he doesn't balance well shooting off the dribble -- making only 29.5 percent of his long 2s. Additionally, he is not much of a ball handler, and his numbers worsened last year, placing him 53rd among small forwards in pure point rating.

The big question with Batum is his defense, or lack thereof. Though his length routinely is seen as a major advantage, his numbers have been consistently awful over a period of years and didn't change last season. Synergy again rated him well below the league average for small forwards. Opposing small forwards had an 18.1 PER at his expense according to 82games.com, and the Blazers gave up 4.8 more points per 100 possessions with him on the court.

While Batum ranked fourth among small forwards in blocks per minute, the countervailing evidence that he is a bad defender has become overwhelming. His contract should be a solid value given his age, production and potential, but only if his defensive output comes close to the level of his offense.

LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE, PF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

19.5
11.2
2.6
18.5

Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Elite low-post scorer with unblockable turnaround and good midrange game.
+ Excels at spinning out of the post for an alley-oop. Runs floor well. Shies from contact.
+ Length, mobility make him an effective defender. Has size to guard 5s.

Analysis
Aldridge has achieved full-fledged stardom as something of a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki, a jump-shooting big man who can generate lots of high-percentage shots with few turnovers. He doesn't do it as well as Nowitzki, obviously, which is why Aldridge doesn't have an MVP or a championship ring, but he is darned effective. Aldridge averaged 23.9 points per 40 minutes last season, third best among power forwards, while ranking in the top 15 at his position in true shooting percentage and turnover ratio. That's some serious efficiency.

Aldridge shot 42.2 percent on jumpers outside 10 feet and went to that weapon a lot, taking nearly 10 a game; only three players, including Nowitzki, attempted more on the season. In addition, Aldridge shot a sizzling 52.1 percent from 3 to 9 feet, the second-best mark in the league -- an area where the league average is just 37.5 percent -- and made 68.4 percent in the basket area.

Meanwhile, Aldridge is a vastly underrated defensive player. He doesn't put up huge block or steal totals, but his length and mobility make him a good pick-and-roll and low-post defender. He has also developed a very good strip move against opposing post players. Synergy rated him among the league's top power forwards last season, and the Blazers gave up 7.8 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the court. The only quibble is that he could be a more effective defensive rebounder given his size. He is only average for a power forward and well below average for a center.

MEYERS LEONARD, C

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season | Player card

Scouting report
+ Big, mobile center who can run and finish. Solid rebounder. Makes free throws.
+ No post game, raw offensively. Motor runs hot and cold. Could use more muscle.

Analysis
Known to fans of southern rock as Myyyrs Lynyrd, by any name I thought he was a bit of a stretch at No. 11. Portland took the plunge because of his size (7-foot-1) and athleticism, and there's some underlying skill too. Leonard's free throw numbers and solid form indicate he may be a good pick-and-pop weapon in time, although he is not an instinctive offensive player. He has shown some touch around the rim.

With all that said, statistically, the only number that makes him a lottery pick is 7-1. He had ordinary rebound and blocked-shot rates for a college center, his focus and concentration still come and go defensively, and his only standout figure offensively was making more free throws than a typical 5.

The idea for Portland is for him to be a quasi-project -- good enough to be the backup 5 and playing regularly enough to improve. However, the late lottery is basically a graveyard filled with mistake picks on centers. I'm not sold that he'll prove an exception to that rule.


RESERVES

J.J. HICKSON, PF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

15.5
11.1
1.5
15.1

Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Versatile big man who can finish at rim. Takes too many jumpers.
+ Solid athlete but hugely mistake-prone on defense. Overmatched as a center.
+ Has poor instincts at both ends. Very good rebounder. Improved left hand.

Analysis
Hickson washed out in Sacramento and became part of the Kings' annual midseason yard sale, but he played much better after Portland scooped him up off waivers. Unfortunately, his proclivity for midrange jumpers that don't find the basket remains intact. Hickson tried 144 between the two locales and made only 29.9 percent of them, accounting for more than a third of his shot attempts.

He is pretty good inside 10 feet, and his finishing ability around the basket allowed him to average a solid 14.5 points per 40 minutes. Hickson rebounds very well, finishing at the league average for centers despite being badly outsized at 6-9.

And let's applaud his improving instincts with the ball. After having one of the worst pure point ratings in basketball in 2011-12, Hickson nearly hit the average for centers last season.

Despite good size for a 4 and decent athleticism, Hickson still struggles mightily at the defensive end. This is partly a result of playing out of position at center so much, but the data has been brutal on this front his entire career. According to 82games.com, opposing power forwards had an 18.2 PER against him in Sacramento and a 17.9 mark in Portland. The Blazers also gave up dramatically more points with him on the court, although this didn't happen in Sacramento. Given how bad his data was in Cleveland, this suggests mild improvement at best.

Optimists will point out that at least he is a solid rebounder and doesn't foul.

NOLAN SMITH, G

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

12.2
4.1
4.6
8.0

Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Combo guard with good size for point. Struggles to handle ball. C athlete.
+ Showed little ability to create and finish. Shot well in college.
+ Suspect defensively due to limited athleticism. Tweener between 1 and 2.

Analysis
If you're billed as a shooting specialist and don't offer a lot of other positives, you need to make shots. Smith didn't as a rookie, and if that doesn't change, he might want to learn a few key phrases in Finnish or Hungarian. Smith made just 28.9 percent of his 3-point tries, and his 40 percent mark on 2-pointers was among the worst at his position. Breaking down by zone, he didn't shoot well from anywhere, and he didn't draw fouls either.

This might not have been a problem if he had been able to play the point, but the evidence isn't in his favor there either. Smith had a negative pure point rating and one of the worst turnover ratios at the position, which shouldn't happen if you're mostly taking jump shots. Overall, Smith's 7.73 PER was the third-worst at his position and among the worst in the league, and as a 23-year-old rookie, he was much older than most first-year players.

Defensively, Smith fouled a lot and to little effect. Only four point guards were whistled more per minute, but opposing point guards still had a 17.5 PER at his expense, according to 82games.com. Portland gave up a whopping 9.4 more points per 100 possessions with him on the court.

JARED JEFFRIES, PF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

8.4
7.9
1.6
10.1

Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Long combo forward who excels at taking charges. Gets lots of deflections.
+ Poor outside shooter and bad finisher with penchant for missing layups.
+ Decent athlete but lacks strength. Terrible rebounder for size.

Analysis
I've long been a Jeffries detractor, but last season may have been the best of his career. Despite playing on a bad knee, he scored just enough to be somewhat useful, which allowed his defensive value to make up for his limited scoring and rebounding.

The shift of the league toward mobile frontcourt players has helped him greatly, as Jeffries is a good pick-and-roll defender but lacks the strength to battle inside. His rebound rate was somewhat competent last season, which was a big improvement, and his defensive activity was a major plus -- seventh among power forwards in steals per minute and 15th in blocks.

Jeffries also took charges by the bushel, ranking third in the league on a per-minute basis, although he is indiscriminate about when to go for the charge and picks up tons of blocking fouls along the way. All told, New York gave up 4.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with Jeffries on the floor.

Offensively, Jeffries still wasn't good. He averaged 9.4 points per 40 minutes, shot just 24.6 percent outside the basket area and had an indefensibly high turnover ratio for such a low-usage player. Those shortcomings offset all the good his defense did. But this was a great season by his standards; he's usually so bad that it not only negates his defense but also makes him a serious negative. Last season, he was neutral, which made him a useful rotation player.

LUKE BABBITT, SF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

15.4
7.0
1.3
12.1

Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Heavy-footed combo forward with 3-point shot. Disappointing rebounding stats.
+ Brutal defensive player. Slow laterally, not a paint defender or a leaper.
+ Needs to improve handle and body for career to gain traction.

Analysis
Babbitt finally got some minutes once the Blazers gave up on the season. In doing so, he proved two things we've long suspected: (1) he can really shoot, and (2) he really can't guard anybody.

First, the good news. Babbitt made 43 percent of his 3s, taking more than half his shots from beyond the arc. The next step is for him to add shot fakes that can get him more attempts close-in. He had only 18 tries at the rim and finished with one of the lowest free throw rates at his position. Better ball skills would also improve his assist and turnover numbers. Babbitt's turnover ratio in particular was inexcusably high for a catch-and-shoot specialist, and he ranked 60th out of 70 power forwards in pure point rating.

But none of that will matter until he stops getting torched on defense. Synergy rated Babbitt the league's second-worst defender with at least 190 plays defensed, and the Blazers gave up an impossibly bad 10.2 more points per 100 possessions with him on the court. It gets worse: According to 82games.com, opposing power forwards rang up a 26 PER against Babbitt, meaning the mere sight of him turned the average 4 into Karl Malone. He fared better at the 3, but his rates of blocks, steals and rebounds were well below average for the position.

RONNIE PRICE, PG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

9.9
3.7
4.9
7.5

>Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Athletic guard who lacks a position. Great leaper, but takes off with two feet.
+ Erratic handle for a point guard. Short for a 2 but can check bigger players.
+ Poor outside shooter, but makes bad decisions on his drives. Fouls like crazy.

Analysis
Phoenix experimented with Price as a starting off guard, where he lacks size but is athletic enough to defend the position, but he couldn't shoot well enough to make it work. Price tried to develop a set-shot 3-pointer but made only 13 of his 44 tries. Throw in an equally brutal 12-for-50 performance on long 2s and it's pretty clear where the problem is.

Well, one problem anyway. Price can't shoot, but he also can't handle the ball, which is why point guard is a difficult position for him as well. He is wildly turnover prone, ranking 68th out of 70 point guards in turnover ratio and 67th in pure point rating. He offsets some of his quickness advantage by always needing to gather and go up off two feet -- where, admittedly, he can uncork some pretty sweet jams for a little guy.

Price balances some of his offensive woes with crazy, manic defense. He was third among point guards in steals per minute, but at a cost of an astronomic foul rate that was the worst of any perimeter player. Still, he got results on this end. Synergy rated him as the Suns' best defender and Phoenix gave up 5.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the court.

In the end, his lack of any offensive role makes him a 12th man.

WILL BARTON, SG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season | Player card

Scouting report
+ Slender, competitive winger who gets to the basket. Unusually good rebounder for his size.
+ Needs to add strength. Average 3-point shooter. Good ball handler for winger.

Analysis
I'm not sure why Barton slipped to the second round, but he has sleeper potential. Barton isn't a great long-range shooter and he may struggle in physical matchups defensively, but his motor and length should help him overcome those issues.

He is also a vastly underrated offensive player. The guy shot 56 percent on 2s, and he was doing it as a go-to scorer. He had the rebound rate of a power forward despite playing the wings and weighing 170 pounds soaking wet. Although he had a major scoring role, his assist and turnover numbers were solid for a wing player. He'll need to improve the 3-point shot, but it's not like his shot is broken -- 34.6 percent on 3s and 74.9 percent from the line last season.

Second-round picks always face an uphill climb and the wing spots in Portland are crowded, but I won't be shocked if Barton is in the rotation by March.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, G

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Quick left-handed shooting guard with scorer's mentality. Strong in transition.
+ Mediocre shooter but can get to rim. Good handle but not inclined to pass.
+ Reputation as solid defender with good quickness and long arms. Injury prone.

Analysis
Williams got into 24 games in his second season after missing the entirety of what should have been his rookie season with a knee problem, but he was injured again -- this time a shoulder problem -- just as he emerged as a rotation player. In his brief stint in the mix, he showed a knack for scoring -- and, um, cherry-picking -- but his game will need to round out for him to emerge as a regular.

Williams averaged 23.6 points per 40 minutes, but with a middling shooting percentage and virtually no assists. His jumper, always a question, remains so after he went 8-for-27 on 3s and 6-for-18 from the free throw line.

He has NBA quickness and a knack for scoring in a Marcus Thornton kind of way, but the jury remains largely out on what type of player he can become.

The jury will remain out at least 12 more months, alas, as Williams tore his Achilles late in the summer and will miss the entire season for the second time in three years.

SASHA PAVLOVIC, SF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

9.9
3.7
4.9
7.3

Stats are per 40 minutes | Hollinger player card

Scouting report
+ Winger with decent quickness. Competent at catch-and-shoot from corners.
+ Awful ball handler. High bounce and gets out of control. Poor offensive instincts.
+ Decent defensive footwork. Rarely rebounds. Doesn't draw fouls.

Analysis
I'm fascinated by Pavlovic's ability to remain in the NBA, as the halo effect of being a half-decent player for half a season, half a decade ago, shows no sign of abating. Last season, he played 527 minutes for a conference finalist, and the previous season he started six games for the world champions! Yet he's not even remotely productive enough to warrant a continued presence in the league. Last season was his fifth straight with a single-digit PER, the third straight with a PER below 7. Even so, he has a guaranteed deal from Portland for 2012-13.

Last season, he shot 29.3 percent on 3s and 29.7 percent on long 2s. Given that theoretically his specialty is his catch-and-shoot game, this was a problem. He had the lowest free throw rate of any small forward and among the worst rates in basketball (see Mike Miller), he averaged a meager 9.1 points per 40 minutes, and he had one of the worst turnover ratios at his position despite a limited offensive workload.

Defensively, he is somewhat useful since he is long and active. Pavlovic was seventh among small forwards in blocks per minute and 20th in steals, although he had one of the highest foul rates too. Opposing small forwards had just a 12.4 PER when he was on the floor.

However, the offensive cost is a killer. He can't handle the ball and can only sort of shoot it, and there's no random side category where he's a plus either. There are 30 guys in the D-League who can do this better.

VICTOR CLAVER, SF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season | Player card

Scouting report
+ Long, skinny combo forward with quickness. Can attack and get to line.
+ May be a tweener. Will struggle to guard wingers but lacks muscle for 4.
+ Poor rebounder for size. Has 3-point range but inconsistent shooter.

Analysis
A first-round pick by the Blazers in 2009 who will come over this season, Claver does not exude greatness based on his European numbers. His stats in the Spanish ACB last season are fairly underwhelming -- a rebound every seven minutes, a shooting percentage in the low 40s and a high turnover ratio. Similarly, his translated European stats from a year earlier, when his Valencia squad was in the Euroleague, yield a 10.3 PER with ho-hum scoring and rebounding totals.

Claver's best skill in Europe is his ability to get to the line, averaging about a free throw for every three field goal attempts, but he'll be hard-pressed to maintain that rate against NBA athletes. The best hope for development may be as a floor-spacing 4, but his 3-point shooting is still erratic. Between that and his lack of a clear defensive position, he faces an uphill battle.

JOEL FREELAND, F

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season | Player card

Scouting report
+ Energetic big man who can run floor and rebound. May need more muscle.
+ Good shooter for size. Makes free throws. Doesn't block shots.

Analysis
A first-round pick in 2006, Freeland will finally make the move stateside after establishing himself as one of the better big men in Europe. Of his last two Euroleague campaigns, one was very good and one was pretty indifferent. Combine the translated stats of the two and you get a solid backup big man -- a projected PER of 13.21, a fairly low shooting percentage of 49 (he takes a lot of jumpers) and a solid rate of 11.5 rebounds per 40 minutes.

Although he is an active big guy, Freeland doesn't appear to have any kind of knack for shot-blocking. In 29 Euroleague games over the past two seasons, he has rejected just 11 shots. Nonetheless, if he can hit some midrange jump shots and his rebounding numbers carry over from Europe, he should give Portland a solid return on its investment.


IndianaBasketball
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Posts: 12816
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I thought he was spot on

I thought he was spot on about Lamarcus Aldridge, especially about him being underrated defensively.

If he can stay healthy, I think he's going to have a monster year. Stotts is going to use him in a lot of similar ways that Dirk was used in Dallas.

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